(Paris) As a visit by the French president to Ukraine approaches, France is raising its tone towards Russia, which it accuses of leading an increased campaign of disinformation and of being responsible for the death of two humanitarian workers near the front line.
Tensions between the two countries have risen a notch in recent weeks over Ukraine, with Moscow castigating the French “militarist frenzy” after the promise of new arms deliveries to Kyiv.
Russian Ambassador to France Alexei Mechkov “will be summoned” to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, a diplomatic source told AFP.
The Quai d’Orsay will reiterate its condemnation of the Russian strikes which killed two French humanitarian workers in Ukraine last Thursday and “will denounce the resurgence of disinformation targeting France”, she said.
The two French victims died Thursday during a strike on Beryslav, a small Ukrainian town located on the north bank of the Dnieper River, near the front line, according to the French ministry, which also reported three other French nationals injured .
Paris denounced an act of “barbarism” by Moscow. And, the anti-terrorism prosecution opened an investigation Friday evening.
This episode occurs shortly after a skirmish between Paris and Moscow in the information field. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed last month to have “eliminated” around sixty fighters, including most of the “French mercenaries” in a strike on the night of January 16 to 17 in Kharkiv, northeast of Ukraine. . Information immediately denied by Paris.
In the wake of these accusations, several lists, including one supposed to reveal the identity of around thirty “dead French mercenaries”, were massively relayed by Telegram channels and pro-Kremlin activists before French volunteers in Ukraine deny it themselves, including three to the AFP.
“We expect a wave of disinformation before Macron’s visit to Ukraine,” a French specialist in military issues recently stressed to a few journalists.
“France is today one of Russia’s main targets in the information field,” he recalled, estimating that the story of the alleged mercenaries was “a textbook case”, the tempo of the accusations responding precisely to French announcements in favor of Kyiv.
Russia is regularly accused by Paris of manipulation of information targeting France and other Western countries.
In June, the French authorities denounced a vast digital interference operation, notably through the publication of false content hostile to Ukraine on sites imitating those of major French dailies. One of these articles claimed that Paris was going to introduce a tax to finance aid to Ukraine.
More recently, in the fall, false advertisements and false graffiti against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky circulated on the Internet to support the idea of a growing weariness of public opinion in Europe and the United States with respect of Kyiv.
Among the many allegations denied by AFP verification teams, street artists are said to have painted murals in Montreuil, near Paris, or in Berlin depicting the Ukrainian president as a cannibal.
The message: to make people believe in an increase in spontaneous demonstrations hostile to Zelensky in Western countries, whose leaders nevertheless overwhelmingly support Kyiv.
Based on a classic process of disinformation with a political aim, these narratives seek not only to undermine this support, but also to stir up dissension within Western societies, believe French officials.
“Russia cannot count on any fatigue from Europeans in their support for Ukraine,” assured Emmanuel Macron last Thursday, after the agreement reached by European leaders on aid of 50 billion euros for the Ukraine. A clear message sent to Vladimir Putin.
The French president announced during his greetings to the press that he would visit Ukraine in February, a visit whose precise date has not yet been communicated.