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French leader may snub Putin over Syria "war crimes"

PARIS -- France’s foreign minister called Monday on the International Criminal Court to investigate Russia for possible war crimes in Syria.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France-Inter radio that “France intends to get in touch with the prosecutor to find out how the probe can be launched.”

Ayrault said France disagrees with Russia’s “bombarding” of Aleppo and “is committed as never before to saving the population.”

He said the investigation would hinge on Moscow’s role in the aerial offensive in the rebel-held eastern part of the city.

Warplanes continue brutal assault on Aleppo

“These bombings -- and I said it in Moscow -- are war crimes,” Ayrault said. “It includes all those who are complicit for what’s happening in Aleppo, including Russian leaders... We shall contact the International Criminal Court prosecutor to see how she can launch these investigations.”

Ayrault also told the radio network that President Francois Hollande would take the Aleppo bombardment into consideration when decided whether to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, as scheduled, when he visits Paris on Oct. 19.

“If the President decides (to see Putin), this will not be to trade pleasantries,” he said.

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) and his French counterpart Francois Hollande speak after a news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, November 26, 2015. REUTERS

Russia on Saturday blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution proposed by France and Spain on ending the hostilities.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for a war crimes investigation into Russian and Syrian airstrikes in Syria, an appeal Russia has angrily rejected.

Russia’s government reacted to the calls for war crimes probes defiantly, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying “it is very dangerous to play with such words because war crimes also weigh on the shoulders of American officials,” according to Russia’s RIA news agency.