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Church opening called off amid Syria tensions

France revised the timetable for a visit by the Russian president next week to focus solely on discussions about the war-torn country, prompting Mr Putin to postpone the trip indefinitely, his spokesman said.

The move came after Francois Hollande criticised Russia at the weekend for blocking a UN Security Council resolution proposed by France and Spain trying to halt hostilities.

Hollande said: "France has a major disagreement with Russia over Syria. And the Russian veto to the French resolution at the UN council has prevented the cessation of the bombings, as well as the proclamation of a ceasefire."

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Vladimir Putin had been due to arrive in Paris next Tuesday for a schedule which included inaugurating a new Russian Orthodox church next to the Eiffel Tower and a Russian cultural centre.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "Regrettably, those events dropped out of the programme. The president decided to cancel the visit."

The French foreign minister and US secretary of state John Kerry have each called for Russia to be investigated for potential war crimes over its actions in Syria.

Peskov denied the suggestion Moscow is appearing increasingly isolated over its action in Syria, which including using warplanes to support an offensive by the Syrian army in Aleppo.

Francois Hollande said dialogue with Russia is crucial for ending the conflict, adding: "The main victims are the civilians who live and die under the bombs.

"That's the reason why I consider that a dialogue with Russia is necessary. But it should be firm and open. Otherwise ... it's a mockery."

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