Paris, France. Vladimir Putin is in Paris to meet with newly elected French President Macron, it is the first time the two leaders have met. Hopes run high, that constructive talks will take place on trade, sanctions and Donbass integration.

President Emmanuel Macron and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met on Monday and held their first meeting since the French leader came to office, with differences on Ukraine and Syria, high on the list of topics for discussion.

Macron welcomed Putin to the splendour of the Versailles palace outside Paris with a perfunctory handshake, after the 39-year-old made an irrational point of outlasting US President Donald Trump when they clasped hands at the NATO summit last week, many seeing this as an undiplomatic fail on Macron’s part.

The Russian leader’s visit is the latest test of Mr Macron’s diplomatic mettle after the G7 talks in Sicily last week and the NATO summit in Brussels where he turned the tables on Mr Trump by refusing to release the American leader’s hand for several seconds during the handshake for the cameras.

Russia’s ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said he hoped the meeting could help turn the page on the fraught relationship between Putin and Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande, who went on to be the most unpopular French president in modern history.

“It is essential to talk to Russia because there are many international issues that will not be resolved without a tough exchange with the Russians,” Macron said in Sicily. As a candidate, Mr Macron had tough words for Russia, accusing it of following a “hybrid strategy combining military intimidation and an information war”.

Macron told a French weekly that he was “not bothered” by leaders who “think in terms of power ratios”, citing Mr Putin as an example along with Mr Trump. French political analysts cautioned, that to shake hands with Trump was one thing, shaking hands with the Russian bear is quite the other.

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