Putin in Kosovo spar with French reporter

PARIS -- Vladimir Putin has criticized the daily Le Monde for referring to South Ossetia and Abkhazia as separatist regions, while not using the same phrase for Kosovo.

"You said separatist? Why didn't you use this word about Kosovo?" the Russian prime minister wondered in an interview for the Paris daily, published on Saturday.

"You cannot answer, and this is because you do not have an answer," Putin continued.

The journalist then remarked that "in Abkhazia, it was the Georgians who had been ethnically cleansed, while in Kosovo, the situation was quite the opposite since it was the Albanians that were exposed to this practice".

But Putin said that the two things were "not at all opposite".

"Thousands of Serbs can't return to Kosovo. Hundreds of thousands," he said.

"Where did you see refugees coming back to Kosovo," he continued. "Don't tell me stories, I know what is really going on there."

Itar-Tass news agency also reported that Putin said some 55,000 Georgians had returned to the Galian Region of Abkhazia.

The new Russian prime minister is in France on a two-day visit for meetings with the country's president and prime minister, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Fillon.