France calls Russian spy chief remarks 'irresponsible' provocation

FILE PHOTO: Aerial view of Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - France's defence ministry on Tuesday called remarks made by the chief of Russia's foreign intelligence service disinformation and irresponsible after he suggested Paris was preparing to send 2,000 troops to Ukraine.

"The manoeuvre orchestrated by Sergei Naryshkin, Director of Russian Foreign Intelligence, once again illustrates Russia's systematic use of disinformation," the defence ministry said in a statement. "We consider this type of provocation irresponsible."

Naryshkin was quoted by TASS news agency saying France was preparing to send some 2,000 troops to Ukraine and that French troops would be a legitimate target for Russian forces if they "ever come to the territory of the Russian world with a sword".

Franco-Russian relations have deteriorated further in recent weeks as Paris has increased its support to Ukraine, including signing a bilateral long-term security accord and promising to send more long-range cruise missiles.

President Emmanuel Macron has also adopted a tougher position on Russia, vowing that Moscow must be defeated.

He has not ruled out that European troops may one day have to go to Ukraine, although has made clear that France has no intention of instigating hostilities against Russia.

Paris has accused Russia of habitually spreading false information. In January it dismissed any notion that Paris had mercenaries in Ukraine a day after Russian lawmakers adopted a resolution condemning French mercenaries there.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Tassilo Hummel and Ros Russell)