Macron greets Putin for first face-to-face talks

Macron welcomed Putin to the splendour of the Versailles palace outside Paris with a perfunctory handshake — after the 39-year-old made a point of outlasting US President Donald Trump when they clasped hands at the NATO summit last week.

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Putin’s visit is the latest test of Macron’s diplomatic mettle after the G7 talks in Sicily last week and the NATO summit in Brussels where he turned the tables on Trump by refusing to release the American leader’s hand for several seconds during the handshake for the cameras.

“It is essential to talk to Russia because there are many international issues that will not be resolved without a tough exchange with the Russians,” Macron said in Sicily.

Russia’s powerful ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said he hoped the meeting could help turn the page on the fraught relationship between Putin and Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande.

“Many things in the future will depend on the first meeting,” Orlov told Europe 1 radio.

“It is very important that we begin to dissipate the mistrust that has built up in recent years.” 

As a candidate, Macron had tough words for Russia, accusing it of following a “hybrid strategy combining military intimidation and an information war”.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine in 2014, Russia has flexed its muscles with a series of war games involving tens of thousands of troops in areas bordering NATO Baltic states.

Macron told a French weekly that he was “not bothered” by leaders who “think in terms of power ratios”, citing Putin as an example along with Trump.

But Macron, who became France’s youngest president just three weeks ago, said he does not believe in “the diplomacy of public invective but in bilateral dialogue”.

Russian president meets the French president

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Not a single concession’ 

Macron said he would make “not a single concession” to Russia on the long-running conflict in Ukraine as he and his G7 counterparts said they were prepared to strengthen sanctions against Moscow.

Government forces have been battling Moscow-backed insurgents in eastern Ukraine for over three years.

Western powers charge Russia with failing to honour its commitments under the Minsk accords framework for ending the hostilities.

France helped spearhead the sanctions, which have seriously dented EU-Russia trade, with a retaliatory Russian embargo on European agricultural products hurting French farmers.

The six-year-long Syrian conflict will also be high on the agenda, with Macron saying he was in favour of “building an inclusive political solution in a much more collective way”.

He regretted that none of the G7 states are party to Syria peace talks under way in the Kazakh capital Astana initiated by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Separate UN-backed negotiations have become bogged down in Geneva.

Russia is a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whereas, as Putin adviser Yuri Ushakov said before the visit, France “is among the countries with a very severe stance towards (Assad’s) regime”.

Coming so soon after an election in which the Kremlin was widely seen as backing Macron’s far-right rival Marine Le Pen — with Putin hosting her during a surprise visit to Moscow — the encounter in Versailles will have an added personal edge.

Moscow has also been blamed for a raft of cyberattacks on Macron’s election campaign, with aides accusing the Kremlin of mounting a “smear campaign” against him.

Putin was quick to congratulate Macron on his election, urging him to “overcome mutual distrust” and “join forces to ensure international stability and security”.

The visit comes seven months after Putin cancelled a trip to Paris for the opening of a Russian cathedral complex near the Eiffel Tower in a spat over Syria with Hollande, who had said Russia’s bombing of Aleppo could amount to war crimes.

In Versailles, Macron and Putin will inaugurate an exhibition marking 300 years of Franco-Russian ties since the visit of Russia’s modernising tsar Peter the Great to France in 1717.

After the talks and a joint news conference, Putin will visit the Paris Orthodox cathedral complex on his own.

Putin visits France, aims to mend ties

On a trip likely to shape Russia-France ties for years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in France for talks with newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron – the candidate he did not back in the presidential vote.

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The trip offers the Russian leader a chance to turn the page and try to establish a productive relationship with Macron as the Kremlin struggles to mend its bitter rift with the West.

Macron is the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the Group of Seven summit over the weekend, where relations with Russia were a key topic.

The Kremlin has hailed the visit as a chance for Putin and Macron to get to know each other and better understand their views on a range of disputed issues, including the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and Russia’s ties with the European Union.

During his G-7 news conference on Saturday, Macron promised to have a “demanding dialogue” with Russia, especially on Syria.

He called it a failure that European nations were not involved in the talks over Syria’s future but were being hit by its effects, including the huge number of Syrian refugees trying to get to Europe.

“We must talk to Russia to change the framework for getting out of the military crisis in Syria and to build a much more collective and integrated inclusive political solution,” Macron declared.

Macron’s invitation for Putin was a surprise after his tough stance on Russia during the French presidential campaign.

That contrasted sharply with his rivals, including far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and conservative Francois Fillon, who both backed ending Western sanctions against Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis.

Macron’s aides also claimed Russian groups launched hacking attacks on his presidential campaign but Moscow has strongly denied all allegations of election meddling.

Putin, however, made his preferences in the French presidential election clear by hosting Le Pen at the Kremlin in March.

Putin also has frequently met with Fillon, the French prime minister from 2007-2012, and praised him as an experienced statesman.

Analysts say the visit to Paris offers Putin an opportunity to improve ties with France that had steadily deteriorated in the closing months of Socialist Francois Hollande’s presidency.

In October, Putin abruptly shelved a trip to Paris after Hollande alleged Russia could face war crime charges for its actions in Syria.

Hollande also refused to take part in the opening of the newly built Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center in Paris and was only interested in talking with Russia about Syria.

As part of his trip Monday, Putin is to visit the center near the Seine River that includes the Holy Trinity Cathedral. The site was sold to Russia under former President Nicolas Sarkozy amid criticism from rights groups.

Prior to that, Putin and Macron are to talk at Versailles and then tour an exhibition there marking the 300th anniversary of Russian Czar Peter the Great’s trip to Paris that was prepared by St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum.

With Peter the Great widely seen as a ruler who modernized Russia and sought to open it up to the West, the exhibition offers a symbolic backdrop for both to talk about the importance of Russia-France ties.

Report warns of heart failure epidemic

The health system faces a tsunami of heart failure patients unless dramatic measures are taken to ensure Australians become healthier, a leading cardiac researcher warns.

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New modelling predicts there will be a 30 per cent increase in the number of Australians affected by heart failure by 2025.

Research fellow Professor Simon Stewart, director of the Mary MacKillop Institute of Health Research and director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence to Reduce Inequality in Heart Disease, led the research and says this is a conservative estimate.

“The scary part for us is that this is just modelling based on the ageing of the Australian population and the growth of the Australian population,” Prof Stewart said

It does not take into account any other heart failure risk factors like obesity and diabetes.

“Baby boomers who have entered old age now with these risk factors and untreated hypertension, which is another big thing, that is going to fuel this future epidemic of heart failure unfortunately,” he said.

In recognition of the growing need for treatment, a new drug known as Entresto will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from June 1.

But Prof Stewart warns the drug on its own is not enough to tackle this silent epidemic.

“This is certainly a welcome addition to the armoury of treatments we have and it will benefit many with heart failure but not all.

“We have to work on prevention, early detection and management is better than relying on these types of drugs to prolong someone’s life,” he said.

The new research, which was funded by pharmaceutical company Novartis, shows 511,000 Australians currently live with heart failure and each year 67,000 new cases are diagnosed, costing the healthcare system more than $5 billion a year.

Heart failure is when the muscles of the heart have been damaged in some way so that it either does not pump properly or it can’t relax properly to take in enough blood to supply around the body.

A heart attack, chronic high blood pressure and infection can all cause heart failure and shortness of breath is the main expression of the condition.

Prof Stewart likens heart failure – the “Cinderella of cardiovascular disease” – to a car engine that has worn out.

“It’s leaking in different spots and it’s not as efficient as it use to be and that does have a dramatic effect on a person’s quality of life and on longevity,” he said.

It’s time, Prof Stewart says, that governments regard heart failure as a serious issue because it’s the most common cause of premature death, more so than cancer.

“The figures tells us very clearly heart disease is not being given enough attention and heart failure being the Cinderella is bottom of the list,” he said.

He’d also like to see people look after their hearts better.

“We all die at some point but please don’t be the ones to die of heart failure – it’s a horrible thing to die from,” he said.

Black Lung will leave long shadow: Miller

Thousands of Queensland miners may be diagnosed with Black Lung in the coming years as the system catches up with decades of inaction on the issue.

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That’s the belief of Queensland Labor MP Jo-Ann Miller, who was the chair of the committee tasked with investigating the re-emergence of what was believed to be an eradicated disease.

The Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis Select Committee handed down its report on Monday, making 68 recommendations, including the establishment of an independent authority to oversee safety in the sector in future.

But Ms Miller said with 30 years’ worth of under-reporting and misdiagnosis, there will be many affected workers identified in the months and years ahead.

“There’s a long latency period before people are disagnosed with Black Lung, so it could be 10, 15, 20 years or it could be two years,” she told AAP.

“We’ve got 21 miners who’ve been diagnosed with Black Lung, but we’re expecting there could be hundreds, if not thousands, diagnosed in the future.”

The inquiry’s work isn’t done, with the committee given extended terms of reference to investigate possible health effects on other workers, in particular those on Brisbane’s numerous tunnel projects who could be at risk of silicosis, a condition similar to Black Lung.

A second report into those expanded terms of reference is due on September 29.

Headed by Ms Miller and former LNP leader Lawrence Springborg, the committee was granted sweeping powers to draft its own legislation on issues surrounding Black Lung, with reforms expected to be introduced to state parliament in August.

South Africa seamers wreak havoc to secure consolation win

South Africa won by seven wickets but lost the series after defeat in the first two games as both countries prepared for the start of the Champions Trophy this week.

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Rabada and Parnell decimated the English top order in the opening five overs and rendered the contest effectively over with England teetering at 20 for six. It was the first time six wickets had been taken inside the opening five overs of an ODI.

England, who rested Ben Stokes and made four other changes after Saturday’s narrow victory in Southampton, were eventually dismissed for 153 after 31 overs to which the South Africans replied with 156 for three.

Hashim Amla scored 55 before being bowled by debutant Toby Roland-Jones and Quinton de Kock (34) fell in the next over to Jake Ball.

But JP Duminy (28 not out) and AB de Villiers (27 not out) saw their side through to victory with 20.1 overs to spare.

South Africa’s bowlers used the seamer-friendly conditions to maximum effect as England’s batsmen fell like skittles, the first six wickets all coming from pitched-up deliveries.

Rabada had out of form Jason Roy caught in the slips by Amla in the opening over and Joe Root, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler followed in quick succession to catches.

Jonny Bairstow’s 51 saved England from the possibility of a worst ever ODI score. He struck eight fours off 67 deliveries, putting on 62 for the seventh wicket with David Willey and a further 52 with Roland-Jones, who was 37 not out at the end of the innings.

Bairstow was stumped off spinner Kershav Maharaj and England still had just under 19 overs to bat when Steven Finn chipped the ball to midwicket and was the last man out.

Hosts England get the Champions Trophy underway against Bangladesh at The Oval on Thursday while South Africa play Sri Lanka at the same venue on Saturday.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson, editing by Ed Osmond)