VERSAILLES, France (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron, standing alongside Russia’s Vladimir Putin, on Monday dubbed two Russian media outlets “agents of influence” which he said had spread fake news about him during his election campaign.
In one of the sharper moments of a news conference marking a visit by Putin, Macron added that he had already raised the issue with the Kremlin leader in a post-election phone call, going on to say the episode was in the past and would stay there.
“When I say things once, I don’t usually repeat myself,” he said.
During the fraught election campaign, Macron’s camp banned two Russian news outlets - state-funded Sputnik news agency and RT TV channel - from having media access to his campaign headquarters, saying they were spreading propaganda rather than reporting real news.
With Putin alongside him, the 39-year-old Macron repeated the accusation in a reply to a journalist’s question, saying: “During the campaign, Russia Today and Sputnik were agents of influence which on several occasions spread fake news about me personally and my campaign.
“They behaved like organs of influence, of propaganda and of lying propaganda,” he said.
During the campaign, which climaxed with Macron’s election on May 7, Macron’s camp also irritated the Kremlin by saying its campaign’s networks, databases and sites had come under attack from locations inside Russia.
When his camp barred journalists from the two Russian outlets from Macron’s headquarters a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman denounced the move as “outrageous ... bare-faced discrimination”.
The Kremlin and RT itself have rejected allegations of meddling in the election.
Putin did not react to Macron’s comments about the Russian media, though he bristled when a journalist suggested that Moscow’s hand was behind cyber attacks on the Macron campaign. These hacking allegations, he said, were not based on facts.
The Kremlin appeared to favour Macron’s far-right opponent Marine Le Pen for the presidency during the campaign and Putin offered her a publicity coup when he granted her an audience a month before the election’s first round.
Putin, though, said on Monday that his meeting with Le Pen did not mean he was trying to influence the outcome of election.
He said he saw nothing wrong with Moscow agreeing to meet foreign politicians who sought good relations with Russia.
Reporting by Denis Dyomkin, Michel Rose and Simon Carraud; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Callus