(UPI) — Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday his state news outlets spread “fake news” and “propaganda” during the French presidential election earlier this month.
After their meeting in Versailles, France, Macron said he has “some disagreements” with his Russian counterpart but they discussed them openly in a “frank exchange of views.” Putin said the two leaders assess many issues similarly and their relations could be “qualitatively” improved.
But Macron was outspoken in his disdain for the Russian media, including state-run outlets RT and Sputniks.
Macron said the Russian media organizations are “organs of influence and propaganda” and “behaved like structures of the government.”
On May 7, Macron defeated right-wing rival Marine Le Pen, a Putin admirer. One day before the election Macron’s campaign staff alleged that their computers were hacked and a mix of fake and authentic documents attached to the candidate were posted on social media “in order to create confusion and misinformation.”
Putin denied that Moscow meddled in France’s presidential election and said he didn’t intend to influence the vote by meeting with Le Pen.
Neither leader took questions from the media.
Macron greeted Putin at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris. Putin invited his counterpart to Moscow.
Last week, Macron met NATO allies and members of the G7. The G7 countries, which include the United States, agreed to consider new sanctions against Moscow over its 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“I will be demanding in my exchanges with Russia,” Macron said after the G7 summit on Saturday.
But Macron had a more conciliatory tone after meeting with Putin.
“No major problem in the world can be solved without Russia,” Macron said.
Putin said that the two nations want to cooperate in resolving the crises, including in Ukraine.
They also agree on defeating terrorism in Syria. Macron said fighting the Islamic State is an “absolute priority” and is a major reason to cooperate with Russia.
Putin said that terrorism cannot be defeated by dismantling a country’s statehood.
“It is impossible to fight a terrorist threat by dismantling the statehood of those countries that already suffer from some internal problems and conflicts,” he said.
The French leader said this issue demands “an inclusive political solution.”
Putin has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been accused of using chemical weapons, including in April.
“The use of chemical weapons by anyone will be the object of reprisals and immediate retaliation on the part of France,” Macron said.
The Russian president didn’t respond to Macron’s comments about the chemical “red line.”
Putin canceled a visit in October after Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, said he would see him only for talks on Syria.
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