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The Latest: Putin visits new Orthodox Church in Paris

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and French President Emmanuel Macron greet journalists at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France, Monday, May 29, 2017. Monday’s meeting comes in the wake of the Group of Seven’s summit over the weekend where relations with Russia were part of the agenda, making Macron the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the talks. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool)

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to France (all times local):

9:35 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited a newly built Russian Orthodox Church near the Seine River in Paris.

The Russian government owns the church, the gold-domed centerpiece of a 100 million euros ($112 million) Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center that includes a school.

Putin shook hands with Bishop Nestor of Chersonese, the representative of the Moscow Patriarch in France. He then kissed an icon and lit a candle.

The Russian president was a champion of building a new Russian church in Paris. Human rights groups opposed the project when it first was approved in 2008.

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7:30 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin have visited an exhibit marking the 300th anniversary of Russian Czar Peter the Great’s trip to Paris.

The czar’s 1717 visit paved the way for diplomatic, economic and cultural exchanges between France and Russia.

Part of the exhibit at a former palace on the grounds of Versailles illustrates how French artists inspired Russians.

Putin said: “They wanted to do like in France, but a bit better. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes not.”

The atmosphere between the two men was cordial and relaxed. They hugged goodbye and shook hands, both smiling, at the end.

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5:50 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has made an extraordinary attack on two Russian media outlets, saying they acted as “propaganda” organs during France’s election campaign.

Speaking at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, Macron accused the two outlets, Russia Today and Sputnik, of spreading fake news.

He said that’s why he banned their reporters from his campaign headquarters during the race for the French presidency, which he went on to win May 7.

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5:41 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected allegations that Moscow meddled in France’s presidential election.

Speaking after talks Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin said Moscow didn’t try to influence the French vote.

But he also defended his March meeting with Macron’s rival in the presidential race, far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Putin described Le Pen as a politician who wants to develop friendly ties with Russia.

Putin says it would be strange if Russia rebuffed overtures from European politicians who want to strengthen relations.

He says the meeting with Le Pen didn’t represent an attempt to sway the race.

Putin added that Russia had been well-aware of opinion polls predicting Macron’s victory.

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5:30 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he and French President Emmanuel Macron have agreed to discuss pursuing closer cooperation on anti-terror efforts.

Putin said after talks with Macron at the Palace of Versailles on Monday that the French leader proposed exchanging official delegations to work toward that goal.

The Russian leader says they also discussed the situation in Syria. Putin underlined the importance of securing the Syrian state, adding that it’s essential for combatting terrorism.

Russia has staunchly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the conflict, while France has pushed for Assad’s removal from office.

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5:22 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron is saying after talks with President Vladimir Putin of Russia that he believes they can work together on Syria and that he wants to forge a reinforced partnership against the Islamic State group.

Macron said he wants a democratic transition in Syria, but not at the cost of the war-torn country becoming a failed state.

After talks with Putin at the Palace of Versailles that ran far longer than planned on Monday, Macron said the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a “red line” for France.

He said that any use of such weapons in Syria would lead to “reprisals” from France — without specifying exactly what form they would take.

Macron said he also spoke to Putin about LGBT rights in Chechnya and about NGOs in Russia.

He vowed to be “constantly vigilant on these issues.”

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4:45 p.m.

Talk about making a statement.

The vast and sumptuous room at the Palace of Versailles, which has been chosen by France to host President Emmanuel Macron’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, celebrates 14 centuries of French military successes.

At 120 meters long by 13 meters wide (394 feet long by 43 feet wide), the Gallery of Great Battles is Versailles’ largest room.

The martial paintings on its walls are spectacular and breathtaking. They commemorate an array of battles — from Tolbiac, waged by King Clovis in 496, to Wagram, won by Napoleon in 1809.

A gentle reminder in case Putin had forgotten France’s proud past.

Putin flew to France to hold talks with Macron on Monday.

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4:25 p.m.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen maintains contacts with Moscow after visiting Vladimir Putin in March, but had no plans to meet with the Russian leader or Russian aides during Putin’s visit to France.

Le Pen tweeted ahead of Putin’s meeting on Monday at the Palace of Versailles with French President Emmanuel Macron that she “rejoices that V. Putin is being welcomed to France. Our relations must be normalized.”

The secretary-general of Le Pen’s far-right National Front party, Nicolas Bay, said later that “of course” Le Pen’s contacts with Russia continue and “there is no reason these contacts wouldn’t continue long-term.”

He says they’re “totally distinct from diplomatic contacts” that Macron, the president, now has.

Putin hosted Le Pen at the Kremlin in March, wrongly betting that the nationalist would win France’s May 7 presidential election.

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2:15 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in France for talks with newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron greeted Putin with a firm handshake on a red carpet leading into the Palace of Versailles before both men walked inside.

Putin’s trip is likely to shape Russia-France ties for years, with Putin trying to mend strained ties with the West and with Macron after the Russian leader backed Macron’s far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Putin and Macron will hold a joint news conference after their talks.

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11:40 a.m.

Human rights activists are gathered in Paris to draw attention to the situation of gays in Chechnya before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to France.

The activists want newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the issue with Putin at their Versailles palace meeting. They held a banner “Stop homophobia in Chechnya” at a square in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Amnesty International France vice president Cecile Coudriou says “it’s important that Mr. Putin is ready to hear, we hope, strong words coming from Mr. Macron, to say ‘stop’ to that homophobia which has lasted for too long.”

Human Rights Watch said in a new report last week that high-level officials in Russia’s Chechnya humiliated inmates during visits to detention facilities where gay people were allegedly held and tortured.

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8:40 a.m.

On a trip that will likely shape Russia-France ties for years to come, President Vladimir Putin is set to visit France for talks with newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron after expressing sympathy for his rivals during the campaign.

After Moscow lost its bets in the French vote, the visit offers the Russian leader a chance to turn the page and try to establish ties with Macron as the Kremlin has struggled to mend a bitter rift in relations with the West.

Monday’s meeting comes in the wake of the Group of Seven’s summit over the weekend where relations with Russia were part of the agenda, making Macron the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the talks.

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