18:05 GMT15 August 2020
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    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that satirical media reports claiming French presidential candidate Francois Fillon was paid $50,000 for organizing a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin resemble another example of "fake news."

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia has also repeatedly denied the accusations of the US intelligence agencies over its alleged involvement in the US election campaign. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called them absurd and did not exclude that it was another attempt to demonize Russia.

    The Russophobia trend has become especially evident in the fake news campaign that is designed to counter alleged Russian propaganda. In November 2016, the European Parliament voted in favor of a resolution, which said that Sputnik and RT posed a danger to Europe's unity and called for extra European Commission funding for counter-propaganda projects. It also drew a parallel between the Russian media and the propaganda disseminated by Daesh, a jihadist group outlawed in Russia and numerous other states.

    "We saw these media reports. Frankly, they resemble more fabrication, something we call 'fake news'," Peskov told reporters of the French satirical weekly Canad Echaine's report alleging Fillon was paid to arrange a Lebanese businessman's meeting with Putin in 2015.

    He confirmed that the meeting took place, noting that Putin's presence at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is standard practice and "his purpose is to communicate with the greatest possible number of entrepreneurs and foreign investors."

    "This absolutely does not require any mediation, and this is all carried out on the feet and on the run," Peskov noted.

    Addressing the report's other claim that Fillon arranged the businessman's meeting with the CEO of French oil company Total in St. Petersburg, Peskov said the following:

    "A company that is present in our market clearly does not need any intermediaries to organize a meeting with the president, so it is rather absurd to say that they were organized by someone," the Kremlin spokesman stressed.

    He further pointed out that Putin's protocol team organizers his meetings, "and here also the role of any intermediaries is ruled out."

    According to media reports, 2F Conseil consulting company founded by Fillon in 2015 signed a lobbying contract with Future Pipe Industries, a company owned by Lebanese billionaire Fouad Makhzoumi, which stipulated arranging Makhzoumi's meetings with Putin and Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of French oil giant Total.

    Earlier on Wednesday, French weekly Canard Enchaine claimed that Fillon may have been paid $50,000 to arrange these meetings.

    Fillon is currently in the midst of a scandal around his wife's possibly fake employment as his parliamentary assistant. Earlier in March, the presidential candidate was summoned before the investigating magistrate, where he reiterated via a written statement that his wife's job was real.

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    2016 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, Francois Fillon
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