New French President Emmanuel Macron says he will be “demanding” when he hosts Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Versailles palace outside Paris on May 29.
Macron, who was elected on May 7 by a wide margin, said it is "indispensable to talk to Russia because there are a number of international subjects that will not be resolved without a tough dialogue with them."
Among the difficult issues facing the two will be Moscow’s alleged interference in the French presidential election, its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war, and its interference in Ukraine.
Macron is timing the visit to the former royal palace with an exhibition on Russian Tsar Peter the Great. The meeting is set to begin at 1:45 p.m. (1145 GMT).
"I will be demanding in my exchanges with Russia," Macron said after Group of Seven (G-7) leaders on May 27 agreed to consider new measures against Moscow if the situation in Ukraine does not improve.
Western nations have imposed sanctions on Russia for its illegal 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Macron is looking to "underline his new status as one of the leaders of a united Europe," Tatyana Stanovaya, a France-based analyst with the Center for Political Technologies, a Moscow think tank, told Deutsche Welle.
Putin will attempt to build new ties with Macron after a troubled relationship with the 39-year-old French leader’s successor, Francois Hollande.
Putin, 64, canceled a visit in October after Hollande said he would see him only for talks on Syria.
During the French election campaign against Putin admirer Marine Le Pen, Macron's team alleged Russia conducted hacking and disinformation efforts. His team refused accreditation to Russian state-funded Sputnik and RT news outlets.
Days before the election, Macron's team said thousands of hacked campaign emails had been put online in a leak that some analysts suspected came from a group with ties to Russian military intelligence.
Moscow rejected allegations of meddling in the election.
With reporting by Reuters and Deutsche Welle