Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called on Europeans to strengthen economic cooperation with Russia, adding however that he was powerless to rein in soaring oil prices. Putin was speaking to journalists in Paris after talks with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon at the start of a two-day visit -- his first outside Russia since stepping down as head of state. The special treatment in the French capital accorded to Putin, who was president for eight years, underscored the view in Paris that he remains a predominant player in Russian affairs. Replying to questions, Putin -- who met French President Nicolas Sarkozy later Thursday -- said concern over human rights abuses in Russia was exaggerated, suggesting that the topic was being exploited to pressure Moscow.