Russia President cancels France visit amid Syria row

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has cancelled a planned visit to France amid a row over Syria.

Report says he was due to meet French President Francois Hollande and open a new Orthodox church later this month. But the visit was halted after France’s government said talks would be confined to Syria.

On Monday, Mr Hollande suggested Russia could face war crimes charges over its bombardment of Syria’s city of Aleppo.

The French presidency had told the Russians Mr Hollande would attend only one event with Mr Putin during the visit planned for 19 October.

A spokesman for Mr Putin confirmed the trip had been cancelled, saying that the visit would take place when it becomes ‘comfortable for President Hollande.’

Despite this, Mr Hollande has said he will meet Mr Putin at any time if it would further peace.

The development comes a day after Mr Hollande told French TV that prosecutions over Syria could take place in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“These are people who today are the victims of war crimes. Those that commit these acts will have to face up to their responsibility, including in the ICC,” he said.

Neither Russia nor Syria is a member of the ICC.

Moscow has repeatedly denied attacking civilians, and says it targets terrorist groups in Syria.

The besieged east of Aleppo has come under intense aerial bombardment since a cessation of hostilities brokered by the U.S and Moscow collapsed last month.

The area was hit again on Tuesday in some of the heaviest air strikes in days, a monitoring group and activists said.

According to reports, eight civilians were killed in strikes on the Bustan al-Qasr and Fardos districts.

Diplomatic efforts to revive the ceasefire have so far come to nothing.

The UN has warned that eastern Aleppo, where an estimated 275,000 people still live, could face ‘total destruction’ in two months.

Last week Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution drafted by France calling for an end to the bombing in Aleppo.