On August 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with French President Emmanuel Macron at the latter’s summer residence in France ahead of the Group of Seven (G7) Summit. The two leaders discussed a number of issues, such as the crisis in Ukraine, relations between Russia and the European Union, de-escalation of tensions over Iran, Syria, and arms control.
And during a question and answer period before their talks, Macron spoke about a weeks-long series of protests in Moscow, where demonstrators have demanded fair municipal elections in the Russian capital, scheduled for September 8.
"We called this summer for freedom of protest, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and the freedom to run in elections, which should be fully respected in Russia like for any member of the Council of Europe,” Macron was quoted as saying by The Moscow Times and other media outlets.
However, the BBC noted that this comment wasn’t translated in the transcript on the Kremlin’s official website. In fact, no references to free elections could be found. Instead, what appears in response to the reporter’s question was:
“…And we know that Russia has ratified a number of international treaties and conventions, under which the country must provide its citizens with fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and so on. And therefore, so many people were worried about the events that took place in Moscow: arrests and so on, all those detentions that were made by the legal authorities.”
When responding to the same question about protests, Putin brought up the so-called Yellow Vest protests in France, which resulted in rioting on several occasions. But there is also a difference between the Kremlin’s version of Macron’s response and the wording reported by other media outlets. According to the Kremlin, Macron said about the Yellow Vest protests:
“Naturally, it is necessary to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to express his opinion. But you know that all these people, who wanted to stand for election during the European election campaign, were able to submit their candidacy, were able to do it freely, without any obstacles.”
The Moscow Times further quoted Macron as saying:
"Those we call the yellow vests were able to run freely in European elections, will run in municipal elections, and that's very well like that. I'm glad that they express themselves freely in elections because it reduces confrontation. Because we are a country where people can express themselves freely, protest freely, go to elections freely.”
With further references to free elections in his comments, including municipal elections in France, Macron clearly contrasts the situation with the Yellow Vests to the fair elections protests in Moscow -- something notably missing from the Kremlin’s translation.
Russian Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC Russian service that the omission was a transcription mistake, and that it would be corrected. However, as of the time of this writing, the version without Macron’s references to free elections is still up.