"We all know about the events linked to the so-called yellow vests during which, according to our calculations, 11 people were killed and 2,500 injured," Putin said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recalled French President Emmanuel Macron that France had a concerning record of violence during the 'Yellow Vests' protests after Macron urged the Russian leader to abide by democratic principles following weeks of protests in Moscow.
"We called this summer for freedom of protest, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and the freedom to run in elections, which should be fully respected in Russia like for any member of the Council of Europe," Macron told a joint news conference ahead of their meeting at his summer residence in southern France, five days before hosting summit of G7 nations.
Despite the talks focusing on international crises, Macron meant to tackle Putin on the domestic Russian situation. Moscow has been rocked by weekly protests for more than a month after the authorities barred opposition candidates from running in an election for the city's legislature in September.
While initially, Putin ignored the comment, he was quick to retort after a follow-up question on the Moscow protests saying things were being handled in line with the law, but that he didn't want the situation to develop like in France.
"We all know about the events linked to the so-called 'Yellow Vests' during which, according to our calculations, 11 people were killed and 2,500 injured," the Russian president said.
The 'Yellow Vests' protests, named after motorists' high-visibility jackets, began in November over fuel tax increases but evolved into a revolt against politicians and the government.
In March, France's country’s human rights watchdog warned that the heavy-handed policing of 'Yellow Vests', saying it reflected a steady erosion of civil liberties in France.
Emergency powers handed to police following the Islamist militant attacks in 2015 had crept into common practice, said Jacques Toubon, head of the Defenseur des Droits de l’Homme (Defender of Human Rights) body.
“Like a poisoned pill, the state of emergency that was in place for two years, gradually contaminated our common law, undermining the rule of law as well as the rights and freedoms on which it is based,” Toubon wrote in his report. This “helped to lay the foundations for a new legal order, based on suspicion, in which fundamental rights and liberties have been somewhat weakened”.
Police tactics have come under scrutiny, in particular, the use of crowd control weapons including “flash ball” riot guns that fire rubber ball-shaped projectiles and dispersal “sting-ball” grenades. Toubon said police had also made an unprecedented number of “preventative” detentions at 'Yellow Vests' protests.
Protesters rights had been “disproportionately curtailed” during the unrest, independent U.N. rights experts also warned in February, mentioning "more than 1,700 injured as a result of the protests across the country.”