Russia has donated a statue of Peter the Great to the French Academy of Sciences to mark 300 years since the Russian czar visited Paris in a pivotal moment in his crusade to open his country toward the West.

In unveiling the bust Thursday, Russian Deputy Culture Minister Alla Manilova told The Associated Press it's a "gesture that underlines the depths of our relations."

She also called it a gesture of "historic justice": While the French academy holds busts of other great world thinkers, she said, "there was one who wasn't here — it was Peter."

The ceremony in the prestigious, domed Paris academy comes as French President Emmanuel Macron has cautiously sought to improve ties with Russia after years of East-West tensions over Moscow's actions in Syria and Ukraine.