Russian president Vladimir Putin has rejected allegations that Moscow meddled in France’s presidential election as both leaders proposed exchanging official delegations to work towards closer co-operation.
Speaking after talks with French president Emmanuel Macron on Monday, he said Moscow did not try to influence the French vote.
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) May 29, 2017
However, he also defended his March meeting with Mr Macron’s rival in the presidential race, far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Mr Putin described Ms Le Pen as a politician who wants to develop friendly ties with Russia.
He said it would be strange if Russia rebuffed overtures from European politicians who want to strengthen relations, adding that the meeting did not represent an attempt to sway the race.
Mr Putin added that Russia had been well aware of opinion polls predicting Mr Macron’s victory.
Meanwhile, Mr Macron made an extraordinary attack on two Russian media outlets, saying they acted as "propaganda" organs during France’s election campaign.
He accused the two outlets, Russia Today and Sputnik, of spreading fake news, saying that was why he banned their reporters from his campaign headquarters during the race for the presidency, which he went on to win on May 7.
Mr Putin also said he and Mr Macron have agreed to discuss pursuing closer co-operation on anti-terror efforts.
He said the French leader proposed exchanging official delegations to work towards that goal.
Mr Putin said they also discussed the situation in Syria, and he underlined the importance of securing the Syrian state, adding that it was essential for combatting terrorism.
Russia has staunchly backed Syrian president Bashar Assad throughout the conflict, while France has pushed for Mr Assad’s removal from office.
- Associated Press