On May 29, Russia's President Vladimir Putin held his first meeting with the new French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palace of Versailles. The talks' agenda included: Russo-French political, economic and cultural cooperation, the Ukrainian crisis, the Syria and Libya crises and the situation in the Korean peninsula. During the visit, the two leaders also attended an exhibition in the Royal Palace of Versailles dedicated to the 300th anniversary of Russian Tsar Peter the Great’s first trip to France.
During the press conference, Macron criticized the Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, which he had previously banned from his election campaign. He also stressed that he will be closely monitoring the situation of LGBT people in Chechnya. Macron however, mollified this criticism of Russia by adding that "history is bigger than us," and that "no issue can be addressed without a dialogue with Russia."
Overall the reactions of Russian lawmakers to the meeting were positive. The Russian media outlet Gazeta.ru commented that "despite [Macron's] criticisms towards Russia, during the presidential campaign, Macron is a pragmatic person and understands the importance of French-Russian relations." Prior to Putin's visit to France, the Russian media outlet Vz.ru wrote that Macron's invitation to Putin signified that the West's policy of isolating Russia failed. The Russian media outlet Mk.ru stressed that following the model of Peter The Great's first trip to France, it was now Putin's turn to open "a window on Europe."
Putin and Macron (Source: Elysee.fr)
Pushkov's Tweet Storm
Senator Alexey Pushkov (@Alexey_Pushkov) tweeted: "The negotiations with Macron and Merkel demonstrated that the EU and Russia are in the phase of a 'conflict dialogue.' A dialogue exists, but there is no progress towards an agreement."
(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, May 30, 2017)
(Source: Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, May 30, 2017)
Prior to Putin's visit, Pushkov wrote: "During Putin's visit, Macron's pragmatism, which people talk about a lot, will be tested in practice. Pragmatism requires better relations with Moscow."
(Source: Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, May 28, 2017)
(Source: Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, May 28, 2017)
Pushkov also tweeted: "French president's invitation for Putin to visit Paris means that the EU has finally given up on attempts to isolate Russia. Obama's policy has quietly died."
(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, May 27, 2017)
(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, May 27, 2017)
Putin-Macron Joint Press Conference – Reactions To Macron's Criticism Against RT And Sputnik
During the joint press conference, Macron stated that "Russia Today [RT] and Sputnik did not behave [during the French electoral campaign] as media organizations and journalists, but as agencies of influence and propaganda, lying propaganda – no more, no less." It is worth noting that after the first round of the presidential elections, Macron's campaign team denied accreditation to RT and Sputnik, accusing them of spreading "propaganda" and of publishing "misleading information."
Kommersant's correspondent, Andrey Kolesnikov, who works in the Russian President's press pool, wrote: "The more [Putin and Macron] answered questions [during the joint press conference], the more the situation looked bizarre: they appeared not to notice each other and the contents of the responses. Moreover, they haven't referred to each other, but called each other briefly and succinctly: 'he'."
Kolesnikov also describes Putin's reluctance to answer questions regarding Russian hackers and "Russian press propaganda activities", following Macron's remarks against the Russia Today TV channel and the Sputnik news service. According to Kolesnikov such behavior is most uncommon for Putin.
(Kommersant.ru, May 30, 2017)
Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of RT and Sputnik, wrote in her twitter account (@M_Simonyane): "Macron's rupture. A cheap vaudeville about RT and Sputnik, performed by the French president."
(Twitter.com/M_Simonyan, May 29, 2017)
Commenting on Macron's words against RT and Sputnik, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "I believe that these allegations are the consequences of the anti-Russian campaign launched by the Obama administration, which has engulfed a number of western countries." He then added: "Our western counterparts still can’t overcome this tendency."
(Tass.com, May 30, 2017)
Ria columnist Igor Gashkov wrote: "Macron's offensive tone may apparently accompany the bilateral relations in the future as well. There are many indications that harshness is a political feature of Macron. The question is whether this is a genuine feature or mere ostentation… Macron tries to look 'brutal' yet because during his electoral campaign he was frequently accused of being amorphous. This also concerned foreign policy."
(Ria.ru, May 29, 2017)
Macron and Putin (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Andrey Koshkin, dean of the department of political sciences and sociology at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, said: "Macron's sharp announcement is a continuation of Obama's policy in Europe. We are witnesses to the fact that the young French President is not yet a sufficiently independent figure."
(Pravda.ru, May 30, 2017)
Putin-Macron Joint Press Conference – Reactions To Macron's Remarks On LGBT Rights In Chechnya
During the press conference, Macron tackled LGBT rights in Chechnya, in reference to Russian independent media outlet Novaya Gazeta's report on Chechen security forces cracking down on LGBT people. Macron said: "We brought up the case of LGBT people in Chechnya, but as well the case of the NGOs in Russia." He then added: "I pointed out France's expectations quite precisely to President Putin, and we agreed to have an extremely regular follow up together." He concluded: "I, from my side, will be constantly vigilant on these points that correspond to our values."
"We brought up the case of LGBT people in Chechnya. I have pointed out France's expectations very precisely to President Putin." (Twitter.com/EmmanuelMacron, May 29, 2017)
"I condemn the hateful acts perpetrated against homosexuals in Chechnya. France and Europe have to commit against these attacks". (Twitter.com/EmmanuelMacron, April 11, 2017)
In response, Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov invited French President Emmanuel Macron and as well German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit Chechnya to assess the situation of LGBT people. Kadyrov wrote on Telegram: "It is not right to accuse the Russian media of slander while your opinion is based on false information. French President Macron may take Merkel with him and come to the Chechen Republic to find out the truth. Our door is open."
(Tass.com, May 30, 2017)
Senator Kosachev: 'Everything At The Meeting Was Polite And, In Many Ways, Fruitful'
Despire Macron's criticisms, Senator Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote on his Facebook page: "I daresay the meeting between the Russian and French Presidents disappointed those who had expected sensations and scandals." He then added: "Everything at the meeting was polite and, in many ways, fruitful and both sides tried to demonstrate their disposition towards resolving problems, not complicating them further… French voters expect the new President to have more independence in foreign policy. Many people are discontent with the level unworthy of a country as great as France, to which its role degraded during (Francois) Hollande's presidency. Now it’s important to watch what the first agreements between the two Presidents will transform into. Then it will be possible to make conclusions regarding the pragmatism and independence of the new French President’s course."
(Tass.com, May 29, 2017)
Leonid Slutsky, the head of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee, said: "The results of the first meeting between France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, and the head of the Russian state, Vladimir Putin, have become a step forward in the Russian-French cooperation, if not a breakthrough. Open and frank dialogue proves it, first of all the dialogue on the situation in Syria, during which the sides discussed new areas of cooperation in the fight against the international terrorism, and an agreement was reached to set up a special working group." He then said: "It is important that Macron sees wiping out international terrorist groups in Syria as his top priority, and not the toppling of the incumbent government. This indeed gives grounds for hope that our contacts on this issue will intensify."
Slutsky also added: "[Macron seems to be convinced of] the fact that the future of Europe and key issues on the international agenda cannot be discussed without a dialogue with Moscow. This improves chances for mending our ties that have a centuries-long history. Of course, differences remain. But it is very important that the first meeting with the new French leader showed that finding common ground is possible for Moscow and Paris."
(Tass.com, May 30, 2017)
Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron toured the exhibition Peter the Great: A Tsar in France, 1717, at the Grand Trianon of the National Museum of the Palace of Versailles and signed the distinguished visitors’ book. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Russian Analyst: Macron Set Red Lines
Russian analyst Aleksandr Goltz wrote in the Russian independent media outlet Ej.ru: "We must fairly admit that the West too currently finds itself in a difficult situation: nobody knows what to do with a nuclear superpower, and a permanent member of UNSC, which blatantly breaches the international law. That's why one by one the Western leaders try to find a right tone in the dialogue with Putin as well as they try to find a contemporary equivalent of peaceful co-existence policy, which delivered results during the previous Cold War. It seems that the West won the current round of this very specific dialogue. Moreover, Macron made it clear: no personal relations and thus no mutual trust." Macron, observed Goltz, set clear red lines. There would be an immediate response to a further use of chemical weapons in Syria and sanctions against Russia would be ramped up in the event of a further escalation in Ukraine.
(Ej.ru, May 30, 2017)
APPENDIX I - Vladimir Putin’s interview with Le Figaro – Kremlin.ru, May 31, 2017
The interview was recorded on May 29 in Paris during the President’s visit to France.
Putin’s interview with Le Figaro (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: The Roots Of Russia-France Relations Go Much Deeper Than 300 Years
Question: "A very good afternoon. Thank you very much for agreeing to answer questions from Le Figaro. I would also like to thank you for meeting with us here, in a classroom at the Russian Cultural Centre. Once again, thank you for granting this interview.
"You came to France in order to open an exhibition that marks 300 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between Russia and France. There have been highs and lows in the relations between the two countries. What is your perspective on the current state of these relations?"
Vladimir Putin: "It is true that President Macron invited me to take part in the opening of the exhibition. However, let me tell you straight away that the relations between Russia and France have a much longer history and much deeper roots, as the French President and I both mentioned on several occasions today. In fact, the younger daughter of Yaroslav the Wise, one of Russia’s Grand Princesses, Anna came here in the 11th century to marry King Henry I of France.
"She was actually called Anna of Rus, Queen of France. Her son Philip I of France was the founder of two European royal houses, the Valois and the Bourbons, and the latter rules in Spain to this day.
"This goes to say that the roots of our relations go much deeper, although over the last 300 years they did pick up momentum. This is true. I very much hope that today’s event, the exhibition and my talks with President Macron will give a new impetus to these relations."
Question: "Mr. President, what is your vision of Peter the Great, who came to Versailles in 1717 to establish diplomatic relations?"
Vladimir Putin: "As I have said to my French colleague and our French friends today, Peter the Great was above all a reformer, a man who not only implemented the best and the most up-to-date practices, but also was undoubtedly a patriot, who fought to secure for Russia the place it deserved in international affairs.
"But above all, he was committed to reforming his country, making it modern, resilient and forward-looking. He succeeded in many, if not all of his undertakings. He focused on research, education, culture, military affairs and statehood, leaving an immense legacy that Russia has been relying on to this day, let alone the fact that he founded my hometown, St Petersburg, which was the capital of Russia for many years."
Putin: To Resolve The Ukrainian Crisis, We Believe That The Main Condition Is To Withdraw The Armed Forces From The Contact Line
Question: "You said that you recently met with Mr. Macron. Did you have any expectations from the first meeting? You said that it is important to overcome the stage of mistrust. Is it over now? As for the main issue, the sanctions, can you say you reached any kind of understanding?"
Vladimir Putin: "At any meeting, in any contacts, at any events of this level, especially if it is the first contact, there are always expectations. If there are no expectations, it is pointless to hold meetings of this kind. I certainly had expectations this time.
"I wanted to get a closer look, to learn first-hand the position of the incoming President of the French Republic on the key issues on the international agenda and on the development of bilateral relations.
"As the newly elected President takes office, he certainly has his own view of things, of bilateral relations, of international politics. Overall, I would say it is a very pragmatic view. We certainly have points for rapprochement, for joint work in key areas."
Question: "The implementation of the Minsk Agreements on Ukraine seems to have reached a deadlock. Have you managed to achieve any progress with President Macron towards the resolution of this conflict?"
Vladimir Putin: "Progress in resolving any conflict, including the conflict in southeast Ukraine, can be achieved first and foremost by the conflicting parties. This conflict is internal – a Ukrainian conflict primarily. It occurred after an unconstitutional forceful seizure of power in Kiev in 2014.
"This is the source of all problems. The most important thing to do is to find the strength to negotiate with all the conflicting parties, and above all, I am confident that as they say, the ball is in the court of the official Kiev authorities. First of all, they must take care of implementing the Minsk agreements."
Question: "What could help achieve progress in this area? Can Russia put forth an initiative that will bring about peace?"
Vladimir Putin: "This is what we keep talking about. We believe that the main condition is to withdraw the armed forces from the contact line. This is the first thing that must be done. The withdrawal has been completed in two areas, but this goal has not been reached in the third area.
"The Ukrainian authorities say this cannot be done because of the shooting there. But shooting will not stop unless troops and heavy weaponry pull back. Heavy weaponry must be withdrawn. This is a key priority.
"The second goal in the political sphere is to put into practice, at long last, the law on the special status of these regions, which the Ukrainian parliament has adopted. The law has been adopted but has not come into effect.
"The law on amnesty has been passed, but President Poroshenko has not signed it. The Minsk Agreements stipulate the social and economic rehabilitation in the self-proclaimed republics. Instead of doing this, Kiev has blockaded these territories. The blockade was initiated by the radicals who blocked the railway lines.
"At first, the Ukrainian President denounced their actions and said that he would restore order. However, he failed. Instead of continuing his efforts, he officially joined the blockade and issued an executive order to this effect. Can we speak of changes for the better in this situation? Regrettably, we have not seen any so far."
Putin: 'I Do Not Think I Have The Right To Determine The Political Future Of Syria, Be It With Or Without Al-Assad'
Question: "Let us forget about Eastern Europe for a minute and talk about the Middle East, primarily Syria. After Russia’s military intervention in September 2015, what do you think are the main solutions for Syria to get out of this long-term war?"
Vladimir Putin: "First, I would like to note the constructive approach of Turkey and Iran, and, of course, the Syrian government, which, together with Russia, have managed to achieve a ceasefire. The ceasefire would not have been possible without the so-called Syrian armed opposition. It was the first and very important step towards peace.
"Another step, which is no less important, is the agreement on establishing the so-called de-escalation zones. Currently there are four such zones. We believe this is an extremely important milestone on the way to peace, if I can phrase it this way, because it is impossible to talk about a political settlement without stopping the bloodshed.
"Now, in my opinion, we are all facing a different task, which is technically and I would even say technologically completing the creation of these de-escalation zones, agreeing on their boundaries and how government bodies will function there, as well as how these de-escalation zones will communicate with the outside world.
"Incidentally, President Macron mentioned this when he was speaking about humanitarian aid convoys. Generally, I believe that the French President is right and it is one of the points of contact where we can cooperate with our French colleagues. Once the de-escalation zones are formalized, I do hope that at least some elements of cooperation will begin between the government and those people who will control the de-escalation zones.
"I really hope (and what I am about to say is very important) that these zones do not become a prototype for the future territorial division in Syria. On the contrary, I expect that these de-escalation zones, if peace is established, and the people who will be controlling them, will cooperate with the official Syrian authorities.
"This is how an environment of basic interaction and cooperation can and must be built. The next step is a purely political reconciliation and, if possible, the development of constitutional regulations, a constitution and holding elections."
Question: "Indeed, Russia and the other parties differ on the Syrian issue regarding primarily the fate of Bashar al-Assad, whom the Western countries have accused of using chemical weapons against his own people.
"Mr. President, can you envision Syria’s political future without Bashar al-Assad?"
Vladimir Putin: "I do not think I have the right to determine the political future of Syria, be it with or without al-Assad. This is for the Syrians themselves to decide. Nobody has the right to claim the rights that belong to the people of another country. This is the first thing I wanted to say.
"Do you have an additional question?"
Question: "Yes, I do. You say that this is not your decision. However, this does not mean that Syria’s future is possible without al-Assad, does it?"
Vladimir Putin: "As I have said, this is for the Syrian people to decide. You have mentioned allegations about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. When the attack happened, we called on our American partners – and everyone else who considers this to be expedient – to send inspectors to the airfield from which the planes that dropped chemical bombs allegedly took off.
"If chemical weapons were used by President al-Assad’s official agencies, modern verification equipment would certainly find traces of this at the airfield. For certain. These traces would be found in the aircraft and at the airfield. However, everyone refused to conduct such an inspection.
"We also proposed sending inspectors to the site of the alleged chemical attack. But they refused as well, claiming that it was dangerous. Why is this dangerous if the attack was delivered at an area where peaceful civilians live and the healthy part of the armed opposition is deployed?
"In my opinion, the accusations have been made for the sole purpose of justifying the use of additional measures, including military ones, against al-Assad. That is all. There is no proof that al-Assad has used chemical weapons. We firmly believe that that this is a provocation. President al-Assad did not use chemical weapons."
Question: "Do you remember what President Macron said about the red lines with regard to chemical weapons? Do you agree with him?"
Vladimir Putin: "Yes, I do.
"Moreover, I believe that this issue should be addressed on a broader scale. President Macron shares this view. No matter who uses chemical weapons against people and organizations, the international community must formulate a common policy and find a solution that would make the use of such weapons impossible for anyone."
Putin: Europe And The United States Are Pursuing A Short-Sighted Policy
Question: "After Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, many people spoke about a new era in Russian-U.S. relations. However, these relations do not seem to have made a new start. The NATO leaders spoke about the Russian threat at their summit last week.
"Are you disappointed by the U.S. attitude?"
Vladimir Putin: "No, I am not. We had no special expectations. The U.S. President is steering a traditional U.S. policy. Of course, we remember that during his election campaign, and also after he was elected and assumed office, President Trump spoke about his intention to normalize the relationship with Russia and said that it cannot be any worse. We remember this.
"However, we also see and realize that the political situation in the United States is influenced by those who have lost the elections but refuse to accept their defeat, and who continue to use the anti-Russia card and various allegations most actively in the political infighting. This is why we are in no hurry, we are ready to wait, yet we strongly hope that Russian-U.S. relations will become normal again sometime in the future.
"As for increasing…"
Question: "In a perfect world, what would you expect the United States to do to improve relations with Russia?"
Vladimir Putin: "There is no such thing as a perfect world, and there is no subjunctive mood in politics.
"I would like to answer the second part of your question, regarding plans to increase military spending by 2 percent or more. It is a fact that the U.S. defense budget is larger than the defense budgets of all other countries taken together. This is why I understand the U.S. President when he says that his NATO allies should take over part of this burden. It is a pragmatic and understandable approach.
"However, what attracted my attention is that the NATO leaders spoke at their summit about a desire to improve relations with Russia. Then why are they increasing their military spending? Whom are they planning to fight against? I see an inner contradiction here, although this is not our business.
"Let NATO decide who will pay and how much. We have our own defense to deal with, and we are working to ensure it reliably and with a view to the future. We feel confident."
Question: "However, regarding NATO, some of your neighbors want to ensure their security through NATO. Is this a sign of mistrust to you, something that causes a scandalous attitude?"
Vladimir Putin: "For us this is a sign that our partners in Europe and in the United States are, pardon me, pursuing a short-sighted policy. They do not have the habit of looking one step ahead. Our Western partners have lost this habit.
"When the Soviet Union ceased to exist, Western politicians told us (it was not documented on paper but stated quite clearly) that NATO would not expand to the East. Some German politicians at the time even proposed creating a new security system in Europe that would involve the United States and, by the way, Russia.
"If that had been done, we would not have the problems we have had in recent years, which is NATO’s expansion to the East up to our borders, the advance of military infrastructure to our borders. Perhaps, the United States would not have unilaterally withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
"This treaty was a cornerstone of current and future security. The missile defense facilities in Europe – in Poland and Romania – would not have been built, which, undoubtedly, creates a threat to our strategic nuclear forces and disrupts the strategic balance – an extremely dangerous development for international security. Perhaps all this would not have happened. But it did, and we cannot rewind history, it is not a movie.
"We have to proceed from the current situation. In this respect, we need to think about what we want from the future. I think we all want security, peace, safety and cooperation. Therefore, we should not build up tensions or invent fictional threats from Russia, some hybrid warfare etc.
"You made these things up yourselves and now scare yourselves with them and even use them to plan your prospective policies. These policies have no prospects. The only possible future is in cooperation in all areas, including security issues.
"What is the major security problem today? Terrorism. There are bombings in Europe, in Paris, in Russia, in Belgium. There is a war in the Middle East. This is the main concern. But no, let us keep speculating on the threat from Russia."
Question: "You are saying that more could be done regarding terrorism and Islamism. But what exactly should be done and what can Russia do? And why is it so hard to work with Europe to achieve these goals?"
Vladimir Putin: "Ask Europe. We are willing to cooperate, as I said a while ago at the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, when I called on all countries to unite their efforts to fight terrorism. However, this is a very complex issue.
"Look, after the Paris terrorist attack, a bloody and horrible event, President Hollande came to Russia and we agreed on cooperative actions. The Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier approached the Syrian coast. Then, Francois headed to Washington, while the Charles de Gaulle left for the Suez Canal.
"So real cooperation with France ended before it even started. France is involved in operations there, but it is acting within the U.S.-led coalition. Go figure who gives the orders, and who is not, who has a say, and what the agenda is. Russia is open to cooperation.
"It was also very difficult to agree on these issues with the US. Incidentally, we have been seeing some shifts lately; and there are actual results. I spoke to President Trump on the telephone, and he supported the idea, in general, of creating de-escalation zones.
"We are now considering how the interests of all the countries to the south of Syria can be best served, with consideration for the concerns of all the countries that face issues in this region. I am referring to Jordan, Israel and Syria itself. Of course, Russia is ready to heed what the United States and our European partners have to say. However, what we need is for the dialogue to be specific and concise, instead of empty talk about mutual claims and threats. There is a need for a real effort."
Question: "You are saying that they are the ones who need to decide and act, right?"
Vladimir Putin: "That is exactly the way it is."
Putin: The Political Storm In Washington Rests On The Desire Of Those Who Lost The Elections In The U.S. To Improve Their Standing Through Anti-Russia Attacks
Question: "You have mentioned the United States. The allegations of Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential race raised a political storm in Washington. Similar allegations were also voiced in France. What is your response, especially against the backdrop of recent developments in the U.S.?"
Vladimir Putin: "I have already commented on this issue many times. There was a question on this topic from one of your colleagues today. He put it very cautiously at the news conference, saying that 'there are allegations that Russian hackers…' Who is making these allegations? Based on what? If these are just allegations, then these hackers could be from anywhere else and not necessarily from Russia.
"As President Trump once said, and I think that he was totally right when he said it could have been someone sitting on their bed or somebody intentionally inserted a flash drive with the name of a Russian national, or something like that. Anything is possible in this virtual world. Russia never engages in activities of this kind, and we do not need it. It makes no sense for us to do such things. What for?
"I have already spoken to three U.S. Presidents. They come and go, but politics stay the same at all times. Do you know why? Because of the powerful bureaucracy. When a person is elected, they may have some ideas. Then people with briefcases arrive, well dressed, wearing dark suits, just like mine, except for the red tie, since they wear black or dark blue ones. These people start explaining how things are done. And instantly, everything changes. This is what happens with every administration.
"Changing things is not easy, and I say this without any irony. It is not that someone does not want to, but because it is a hard thing to do. Take Obama, a forward-thinking man, a liberal, a democrat. Did he not pledge to shut down Guantanamo before his election? But did he do it? No, he did not. And may I ask why not? Did he not want to do it? He wanted to, I am sure he did, but it did not work out. He sincerely wanted to do it, but did not succeed, since it turned out to be very complicated.
"This is not the main issue, however, even though it is important, since it is hard to fathom that people have been walking there in chains for decades without trial or investigation. Can you imagine France or Russia acting this way? This would have been a disaster. But it is possible in the United States and continues to this day. This refers to the question on democracy, by the way.
"I referred to this example just to show that it is not as simple as it may seem. That said, I am cautiously optimistic, and I think that we can and should be able to reach agreements on key issues."
Question: "You are saying that right now, the political storm in Washington rests on absolutely unsubstantiated allegations."
Vladimir Putin: "It is not based on allegations, but on the desire of those who lost the elections in the United States to at least improve their standing through anti-Russia attacks, by accusing Russia of interference. The people who lost the elections do not want to admit that they really lost, that the one who won was closer to the people and better understood what ordinary voters want.
"They are absolutely reluctant to admit this, and prefer deluding themselves and others into thinking it was not their fault, that their policy was correct, they did all the right things, but someone from the outside thwarted them. But it was not so. They just lost and they have to admit it.
"When they do, I think it will be easier for us to work. However, the fact that this is being done using anti-Russia tools is not good, as it brings discord into international affairs. Let them argue among themselves, so they can prove who is stronger, who is better, who is smarter, who is more reliable and who sets a better policy for the country. Why involve third countries? This is very distressing. But it will pass, everything passes, and this will pass as well."
Putin: 'Anyone Entitled To Run, Anyone Who Fulfills The Relevant Procedures Prescribed By Law, Can And Will Participate' In The 2018 Presidential Elections in Russia
Question: "Mr. President, we are close to the end of our interview. Most of all I would like to ask you a question about 2018. This is the year of elections in Russia – presidential elections, and elections to the Federal Assembly.
"Could you tell us if you intend to run, or perhaps the opposition would be able to nominate someone in a democratic procedure? How do you see the development of this situation? You do want next year’s campaign to unfold in a truly democratic environment, don’t you? I am talking about 2018."
Vladimir Putin: "All the recent election campaigns in Russia have been in strict accordance with the Russian Constitution, in strict compliance. And I will make every effort to ensure that the 2018 election campaigns are conducted in the same way, I repeat, in strict accordance with the law and the Constitution.
"So anyone entitled to run, anyone who fulfills the relevant procedures prescribed by law, can and will participate, if they wish, in elections at all levels – to legislative assemblies, to parliament, and in presidential elections.
"As for the candidates, it is still too early to talk about it.
Question: "Thank you. I hope we will see you soon, thank you very much for sharing your views with Le Figaro."
 Euobserver.com, May 29, 2017.
 Gazeta.ru, May 29, 2017.
 Vz.ru, May 29, 2017.
 Mk.ru, May 28, 2017.
 France24.com, May 30, 2017.
 France24.com, April 29, 2017.
 The report mentions that LGBT men in Chechnya are being held in secret prisons, where they are tortured and killed. Novayagazeta.ru, April 1, 2017.
 Twitter.com/EmmanuelMacron, May 29, 2016.