New French President Emmanuel Macron raised LGBT rights and Chechnya in his tense first meeting with Vladimir Putin.
The French leader met with the Russian leader today for the first time since his election earlier this month.
During the pair’s behind-closed-doors meeting, President Macron raised the alleged purge of gay men in Chechnya, as well as wider issues regarding LGBT people’s rights across Russia.
Macron, a strong supporter of equality, vowed in a joint press conference with Putin to be “constantly vigilant on these issues.”
He told the press: “I reminded President Putin of the importance for France of respect for all peoples, all minorities, and all opinions in civil society.
“We have raised the case of LGBT people in Chechnya but equally the case of NGOs across Russia.
“On these subjects, I have thus very precisely indicated to President Putin the expectations of France, and we have agreed to have an extremely regular follow-up together.”
He added: “President Putin has also indicated to me that he has taken several initiatives on the subject of LGBT people in Chechnya, with measures aiming to bring out the whole truth on the actions of the local authorities and to fix the most sensitive issues.
“Regardless, I will, for my part, be constantly vigilant on these issues, which correspond to our values.”
The press conference was also the scene of a confrontation as Macron laid into Russian state-owned media outlets Sputnik and Russia Today.
The French politician has harboured a grudge against the outlets for some time, banning them from covering his events during the election
Macron had banned the outlets after Sputnik targeted him with ‘gay’ smears, which he says were aimed at destabilising his campaign.
The Russian state-owned news site had fabricated a “persistent rumour that [Macron] is secretly gay and living a ‘double life’”, also accusing him of being in the pocket of a “very wealthy gay lobby”
The new President, who is married to his former schoolteacher Brigitte Macron, has repeatedly denounced the smears.
He said: “Two things are vile behind the implication: to say that it is not possible for a man living with an older woman to be anything other than a homosexual or a hidden gigolo is misogynistic. And it’s also homophobia.
“If I had been a homosexual, I would say it and I would live it.”
Speaking during the press conference with Putin, Macron branded the Russian outlets “organs of influence and propaganda” that have “produced infamous counter-truths” about him.