French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Russia's Vladimir Putin at the sumptuous royal palace in Versailles on Monday to talk about cooperating on fighting terror. The visit demonstrated Macron's prowess in global politics, as he secured that goal but pulled no punches in a blistering attack on Russian state media outlets. The two leaders emerged from three-hour talks exchanging smiles and hailing historic ties between the two nations, but their comments at a news conference reflected some deep divides. Macron said he spoke to Putin about LGBT rights in Chechnya, for instance, and said any use of chemical weapons in Syria—where Russia is propping up the government of President Bashar Assad—is a "red line" for France and would be met by an "immediate riposte."
Speaking with remarkable frankness, Macron tore into two Russian media outlets—Sputnik and Russia Today—that he said had spread "serious untruths" during the French presidential campaign that he won on May 7. "I will not give an inch on this," he said, per the AP. "Russia Today and Sputnik ... behaved as organs of influence, of propaganda, of lying propaganda." Putin strongly rejected accusations of meddling in the presidential vote. Macron portrayed the meeting as just a first step in resetting the country's relations with Russia. "Big things are built over time," he said. "It was an exchange that was extremely frank, direct, with a lot of things that were said. We have disagreements, but at least we talked about them," he added.