VERSAILLES, France — French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday accused pro-Kremlin news outlets Russia Today and Sputnik of being “organs of influence and propaganda” against him in this year’s presidential election.
Macron made the remark in answer to a question at a joint news conference with visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the run-up to the second round of the election on May 7, aides to Macron accused the Kremlin of mounting a “smear campaign” against the candidate via state media.
Macron said that’s why he banned their reporters from his campaign headquarters during the race for the French presidency, which he went on to win May 7.
Putin rejected the allegations that Moscow meddled in France’s presidential election.
Speaking after talks Monday with Macron, Putin said Moscow didn’t try to influence the French vote.
But he also defended his March meeting with Macron’s rival in the presidential race, far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Putin described Le Pen as a politician who wants to develop friendly ties with Russia.
Putin said it would be strange if Russia rebuffed overtures from European politicians who want to strengthen relations.
He said the meeting with Le Pen didn’t represent an attempt to sway the race.
Putin added that Russia had been well-aware of opinion polls predicting Macron’s victory.
In other comments, Macron also declared that Putin had promised “the whole truth” about an alleged crackdown on gay men in Chechnya.
“President Putin told me… he had undertaken several initiatives on the subject of LGBT people in Chechnya with measures aimed at establishing the whole truth about the activities of local authorities,” Macron said.
“I spelled out France’s expectations very precisely,” Macron said, adding that he would be “vigilant” on the issue and that the two leaders had agreed to review the situation regularly.
Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported in March that authorities in Muslim-majority Chechnya were imprisoning and torturing gay men.
It said that over 100 gays had been arrested in the region, where homosexuality is taboo, and that their families have been told to kill them to “cleanse their honor”.
The paper said at least two had been killed by relatives and a third died after being tortured.
Earlier this month Putin backed an official probe into the reported attacks after German Chancellor Angela Merkel confronted him on the issue during a visit to Moscow.
Coinciding with Putin’s visit to France on Monday, two gay couples unfurled a banner reading “End Homophobia in Chechnya” and kissed, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.