Putin gave Russia 'great years' - Chirac

It was an ex-presidential love-in in Paris as the former leaders of Russia and France exchanged compliments and courtesies. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met Jacques Chirac as part of his working visit to France. Putin bestowed Russia's State Award on the

The meeting came after Putin held talks with the incumbent French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which, according to the Russian PM, was “sharp but constructive”.

Speaking of the Putin’s years in charge, Jacques Chirac said the eight years of his presidency “were great years for Russia”, characterised by successful economic development and increased living standards.

“Under your leadership the quality of life in Russia greatly increased and Russia strengthened its position in Europe and in the international arena. The last ten years have been great for Russia,” Chirac said.

The former French president also said that without a stable Russia there cannot be a stable Europe. “I am thankful to you for that as a European, as a citizen of the world,” Chirac said, adding that he has long been Putin's friend.

“Russia's President Medvedev has signed a decree saying that this year Mr. Chirac is granted the State Award of Russia. It’s a significant symbol of his contribution to Russia-France relations in recent years. I’m pleased to thank Mr. Chirac again for this. My congratulations! This is a very special ceremony in Russia. We'll all be glad to welcome Mr. Chirac in Moscow on the 12th of June,” Putin responded.

Vladimir Putin also met Maurice Druon, a renowned French writer and member of the Academie Francaise, who turned 90 this April. Putin included a meeting with Druon in the agenda of his working visit to Paris in order to pass on greetings from Russia, where the French writer is widely read.