France accuses Russia of disinformation campaign in key election year

France accuses Russia of disinformation campaign in key election year

PARIS — French government officials on Monday accused Russia of operating a long-running online manipulation campaign against Ukraine’s Western backers in the lead up to the second anniversary of Moscow’s military invasion of its neighbor.

French foreign ministry officials said in a media briefing that Russia has stepped up efforts to manipulate information and spread deception, targeting Kyiv’s allies in the West, including Poland, Germany and France. They referred to messages on social media platforms such as X, formerly Twitter, and websites like Sputnik as “massive in scope” and “complex in structure.”

The aim of Russia’s disinformation campaign remains the same, officials said: To amplify Russia’s success in the Ukraine war, justify its invasion, discredit and diminish Ukraine’s military resistance and undermine civilians’ resilience in the face of daily attacks on cities and towns, and fracture Western support for Ukraine’s military and slow if not stop supply with weapons Kyiv.

Officials say Russia’s disinformation campaign goes beyond the war in Ukraine. In a year of high-stake elections in the U.K., the European Union and the United States, French officials say Russia is working to confuse and scare voters, discredit some candidates and support others, and disrupt mega sporting events such as the Paris Olympics and the European soccer championship in Germany.

Last month, French defense officials said France, a staunch ally of Ukraine, had been a target of a Russian disinformation campaign following President Emmanuel Macron’s reaffirmation of support for Kyiv.

Last year, the French agency responsible for fighting foreign digital interference, VIGINUM, said it has monitored the alleged operation since soon after Russia invaded its neighbor and that France was one of several European countries targeted. It said it traced the campaign to Russian individuals, companies and “state entities or entities affiliated to the Russian state.”

The agency detected a mirror website mimicking the French Foreign Ministry’s and intervened with “protective and preventive measures,” VIGINUM said in a report last year.

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