PARIS (Reuters) – France’s envoy to the United States on Tuesday accused Moscow of spreading fake news after Russia’s Defence Ministry said a French frigate in the Mediterranean had launched missiles on Syria.
The ministry initially said a Russian military plane had been shot down by Israeli warplanes and that Russian air control radar systems had detected rocket launches from the French frigate Auvergne.
The ministry later said the aircraft had been shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft systems in what President Vladimir Putin said was the result of tragic and chance circumstances.
“Russian fake news machine getting mad: accusing the French to have shot down a Russian plane (in fact victim of a Syrian « friend(ly) » fire),” France’s ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud tweeted, in English.
French army spokesman Patrik Steiger denied that France had been involved in the incident or fired any missiles but several hours later Russian media continued to ask the question.
Quoting a military expert, Tass news agency said Paris was partly at fault after launching cruise missiles from the Auvergne.
France’s presidency, Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry had yet to respond officially to the Russian assertions.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Leigh Thomas)