French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday leveled a remarkable criticism of two Russian media outlets — with Russian President Vladimir Putin standing by his side.
Macron, at a joint news conference with Putin in Paris, was asked by a reporter about his refusal to allow access at his campaign headquarters to some Russian outlets.
Macron, whose campaign was the target of a massive cyberattack just before his election victory last month that cybersecurity firms have traced to Russian operatives, accused the organizations Russia Today and Sputnik of spreading misinformation.
“Russia Today and Sputnik have been influential outlets which at several times have spoken mistruths about me and my campaign,” Macron said, according to an English translation. “And that’s why they were not invited to my headquarters. All media outlets, including Russian ones, have had access to my campaign. Relationships are always the same.”
“So it was serious that foreign media outlets interfered by saying serious mistruths during a Democratic campaign,” he added. “And I will not give into that in any way. But Russia Today and Sputnik have not behaved as media outlets and journalists but behaved as organs of influence, propaganda, and false propaganda.”
At the news conference, Putin said he and Macron had not discussed the topic of election meddling, and he rejected allegations that Russia attempted to influence France’s vote. He also defended his preelection meeting with Marine Le Pen, Macron’s chief rival in France’s campaign. Putin said it would have been strange not to hold a meeting with a candidate who had expressed interest in warmer relations with Russia.
The US intelligence community has said an organized Russian effort was behind a campaign to influence the US presidential election last year in an attempt to sway the outcome in favor of Donald Trump. The FBI and congressional committees are investigating whether any Trump associates colluded with Russian officials to meddle in the election.
Putin has also denied that Russia attempted to influence the US election.