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Russia "Imperial Power" - Macron

FILE: French President Emmanuel Macron and President Patrice Talon of Benin hold a joint press conference after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 3.5.2018

French President Emmanuel Macron on a visit to Benin Wednesday branded Russia "one of the last imperial colonial powers" for its invasion of Ukraine.

"Russia launched an offensive against Ukraine. It's a territorial war the likes of which we thought had disappeared from European soil," Macron said on the second leg of a trip to Africa to reset France's relations with the continent, where many nations are former French colonies.

"I speak on a continent that has suffered colonial imperialism. Russia is one of the last imperial colonial powers," he said at a press conference with Benin President Patrice Talon.

Meanwhile, Talon on Wednesday dismissed criticism that his government was holding political prisoners after the jailing of two opposition leaders late last year.

"In Benin, there are no political detainees, no one is detained in Benin for their political opinion," Talon said, answering questions from journalists with Macron at his side.

"But people are detained for having acted, for having committed offenses and crimes in the political field, that is true."

Macron did not talk about the political situation in Benin during his speech.

Macron's Africa tour comes at the same time Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also visits a number of African nations, both extending a friendly hand and voicing support for their hosts.