French President Emmanuel Macron accused Russian state news outlets of spreading "fake news" and "propaganda" against him during May's presidential election, after holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Versailles Palace outside Paris.
The meeting on May 29 was the first between the two men since Macron's decisive May 7 victory over right-wing rival Marine Le Pen, a Putin admirer whom the Kremlin and its surrogates appeared to favor, and came amid bilateral ties that remain strained.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Putin, Macron said RT and Sputnik were "organs of influence and propaganda" and "behaved like structures of the government."
Macron's team alleged that Russian hacking and disinformation efforts aimed to derail his campaign.
Putin denied that Moscow meddled in France's presidential election and said that by meeting Le Pen in Moscow in March the Kremlin had not tried to influence the vote.
Macron, 39, said the two leaders had a "frank exchange" over their "differences" on a number of issues, including the Ukraine standoff and Russia’s support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.
Macron has said he supports the continuation of Western sanctions targeting Russia over its 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, whose war with Kyiv's forces has killed almost 10,000 people.
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He said last week that he wanted to bring together the "Normandy format," which groups the leaders of Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine and which met first in Normandy, France.
On May 29, Macron said he and Putin agreed the time was right for a new round of peace talks on Ukraine, adding that the talks should take place "in days or weeks."
Putin, 64, said sanctions imposed by Western countries on Russia over its activities in Ukraine would not help stabilize the situation in the east of the country, where it borders Russia.
On Syria, Macron said the use of chemical weapons is a red line for France and would result in reprisals.
France and Russia back different sides in the Syrian conflict, with Putin supporting Assad and Macron part of a Western coalition that supports rebel groups and has accused Assad of using chemical weapons in the past.
Macron said he wanted Paris and Moscow to improve intelligence sharing on Syria and to cooperate on finding a political solution to the conflict, though he gave no details on what he thinks a deal would look like.
Putin questioned France's independence in its Syria policy because it was part of a U.S-lead alliance, adding that the two leaders had agreed the fight against terrorism was their top priority, even if his views on Syria had not changed.
"Any use of chemical weapons would result in reprisals and an immediate riposte, at least where France is concerned," Macron said.
"Our two countries will cooperate on Syria, this is essential. … We need strong cooperation because we have a joint priority, which is the fight against terrorism," he added.
Macron also said that Putin had promised "the whole truth" about an alleged campaign of abuse, including murder, targeting gay men in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim region in Russia’s south ruled by Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.
"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, adding he would be "vigilant" on the issue.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa