Vladimir Putin has been in Paris seeking French help in improving Russia’s relations with the European Union when it takes over the presidency in July. Prime Minister Francois Fillon promised his Russian counterpart that a strategic partnership would be a priority.
Talks have been deadlocked for months over various issues. Putin met one of the often-voiced complaints head on: “Concerns about the lack of human rights in Russia are strongly exaggerated,” he insisted. “In general this is used as an instrument for pressure on Russia, with aims which have nothing to do with human rights.”
Francois Fillon’s reply was conciliatory: “We do not give lessons to people because we are not starting from the same point. We don’t have the same history. What is important is that we have dynamic progress.”
But the French prime minister did give a letter to Putin from ‘Reporters without Borders’ slamming Russia’s human rights record.
The fact that Putin met President Nicolas Sarkozy during his visit underlined the former president’s continuing hold on Russian foreign policy.
French presidents do not normally receive visiting prime ministers.