“They didn’t act like the media, like journalists. They behaved like deceitful propaganda,” Macron told RT France head Xenia Fedorova during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Versailles.
“I have always had an exemplary relationship with foreign journalists, but they have to be real journalists,” explained Macron, who defeated Marine Le Pen in the second round of the election, earlier this month. “All foreign journalists, including Russian journalists, had access to my campaign.”
Macron described RT and Sputnik as “organs of influence and propaganda,” adding that both “produced infamous counter-truths about him.”
Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow “does not agree” with Macron’s statements about the two news organizations.
RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said that Macron’s attack on a news outlet he disagrees with is a threat to freedom of speech.
“Despite the numerous accusations made throughout the duration of the French presidential campaign, to this day not a single example, not a single piece of evidence, has been presented to support the claims that RT spread any slander or ‘fake news’ about Mr. Macron,” Simonyan said in a statement. “By labeling any news reporting he disagrees with ‘fake news,’ President Macron sets a dangerous precedent that threatens both freedom of speech and journalism at large.”
“This is a joke,” Jean-Pierre Thomas, a Russian-French relations expert told RT from Paris. “Everyone knows, including Mr Macron that the media has to be diverse. In France, 99 percent of the media were campaigning for Macron, if we do not allow outside media, what is the point?”
Last month’s accreditation delay for RT and Sputnik, which ended up becoming an outright refusal, provoked a heated reaction from Moscow.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova called it “deliberate and bare-faced discrimination against Russian media by the presidential candidate of a state that has historically been vigilant when it comes to free speech.”
Simonyan accused Macron’s team back then of “building electoral campaign on lies about RT and Sputnik.”
Macron’s campaign repeatedly accused Russia of interference in the election, claiming that Russian hackers attempted to gain access to its data, and impede the work of its website. A trove of communication purportedly from Macron’s staff was leaked on the internet a day before the run-off election. Moscow has staunchly denied any interference.
Despite an anticipated coolness in relations, the Russian president is one of the first world leaders to travel to Paris since Macron’s convincing election win.
On Monday, the pair spent three hours in what the French leader called a “frank exchange of views,” which Putin said would lead to a “qualitative” improvement in relations between the two countries.
West bears responsibility for chaos & terrorist attacks in MidEast and N. Africa – Lavrov
Lavrov arrived in Cairo on Monday with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu for a joint meeting of the Russian and Egyptian foreign and defense ministers. The fight against terrorism was top of the meeting’s agenda.
Both sides reiterated that for counter-terrorist efforts to have any effect, the fight against this global threat must be carried out jointly.
“The recent attack on the Coptic Christians once again highlights the need for vigilance. We stand united in our attempt to boost anti-terrorist efforts around the globe,” Lavrov said during a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart that followed the meeting.
Lavrov was referring to Friday’s terrorist attack in the town of Minya, which claimed the lives of 28 people, including children, and left dozens injured. Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack, which prompted Egypt to launch what it called responsive strikes against jihadist positions in neighboring Libya.
On Saturday, the Egyptian Defense Ministry said in a statement that Egypt’s armed forces have successfully completed the destruction of all planned targets abroad, including the militants’ concentration areas and training camps.
During the press conference, Lavrov addressed the issue of the ongoing Libyan crisis that poses a security threat for neighboring countries, including Egypt, and once again drew attention to the fact that western involvement in the crisis in the North African country led only to the dismantling of its statehood and eventually turned it into “a backyard for terrorists.”
“Libya was bombed and its government was violently overthrown. It was turned into a backyard for terrorists and criminals. The regime was changed with the help of those [militants], who came from Europe. They were free to leave their countries because everybody knew where they were going and what they were going to do there. And then they were welcomed back,” he said.
“Now, we just see the consequences of these irresponsible policies,” Lavrov told reporters at the press conference, adding that western countries should bear responsibility for the chaos that resulted from their actions.
Earlier, Lavrov also met with the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit. The Secretary-General later told RT’s Maria Finoshina that he “very much” approves of Egypt’s airstrikes against terrorists in Libya.
Shoigu also discussed issues related to combating terrorism and extremism with his Egyptian counterpart. The two sides agreed to continue sharing intelligence and discussed joint exercises and military training.
The Russian and Egyptian foreign and defense ministers also held a joint meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and discussed regional conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.
In October 2015, 224 people, mostly Russian citizens, were killed after an improvised explosive device went off on board an Airbus A321 flying from Sharm El Sheikh International Airport to St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport. The Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed as it was flying over the northern Sinai Peninsula. Islamic State’s supporters in Sinai claimed responsibility for the attack. The bombing led to several countries suspending flights to Egypt over concerns of lack of airport security. While Moscow has continued to uphold the ban, the steps undertaken by Cairo to improve security have led to an agreement to resume the flights “in the shortest term,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said following Monday’s meeting in Cairo.