French President Emmanuel Macron told Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Monday that Moscow must abide by fundamental democratic principles, and that it was right to keep a dialogue between the countries to move forward on international crises.
Macron, who was hosting Putin at his summer residence in southern France, said he hoped the two leaders would make progress towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Ukraine after its new president offered an olive branch to Putin.
"We called this summer for freedom of protest, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and the freedom to run in elections, which should be fully respected in Russia like for any member of the Council of Europe," Macron told a joint news conference ahead of their meeting.
"Because I believe in a European Russia."
Moscow has been rocked by weekly protests for more than a month after the authorities barred opposition candidates from running in an election for the city's legislature in September.
Macron and Putin said they would also discuss how to de-escalate tensions over Iran, the Syria conflict and arms control issues.
Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that he saw no alternative to "Normandy" format heads of state talks on the Ukraine crisis, but stopped short on Monday of signing up to a new summit on the subject.
He said phone conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy had given him cautious grounds for optimism, but stressed that he believed that any meeting aimed at resolving the Ukraine crisis should yield tangible results.