Putin Postpones France Visit

Putin Postpones France Visit

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin indefinitely postponed a visit to France amid differences over its program, the Kremlin said Tuesday, a move that comes amid a bitter rift over Syria.

Putin's trip to Paris planned for next Tuesday envisaged the opening of a Russian cultural center and an exhibition, but the French side has revised the program, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"Regrettably, those events dropped out of the program," Peskov said, saying it's up to the French side to explain the reason. "The president decided to cancel the visit."

France said Putin's visit should focus extensively on Syria amid growing diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

Putin was to meet with French President Francois Hollande and inaugurate a new Orthodox church next to the Eiffel Tower along with a cultural center.

Peskov said that Putin could visit France at a later date which would be "comfortable" for Hollande.

Over the weekend, Russia blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution proposed by France and Spain on ending the hostilities in the war-torn country, blaming Paris for the refusal to discuss a compromise version. And on Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Russia for possible war crimes in Syria.

Ayrault's statement followed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's call for a war crimes investigation into Russian and Syrian airstrikes in Syria, an appeal Russia has angrily rejected.

Peskov denied that the cancellation of Putin's visit to France reflected a growing international isolation of Moscow over its action in Syria, where Russian warplanes have supported the Syrian army offensive on Aleppo.

"No, the president hasn't found himself in isolation," Peskov said, dismissing the claim as "absurd."

"Russia and its president aren't facing anything of the kind."

Asked about a possible meeting of Russian, French, German and Ukrainian leaders in Berlin on Oct. 19 to discuss the Ukrainian crisis, Peskov said that "preliminary preparation for such a meeting has been underway" but stopped short of announcing it.

(KA)