Ahead of the French presidential election, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has condemned cyber-attacks allegedly launched by Russia, claiming that pro-Europe candidate Emmanuel Macron was deliberately targeted by Russian hackers against the pro-Russian, right-wing candidate François Fillon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Speaking to the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday, Foreign Minister Ayrault said that Russia is undermining the French election by attempting to shift favor towards conservative candidate Francois Fillon and the Front National's Marine Le Pen, both of whom are not hostile towards Russia.
Socialist Macron has accused Russia of attempting to "hack" the far-right campaign, drawing parallels between the Democrats' email leaks in the 2016 U.S. election despite lack of credible evidence to suggest that any malicious cyber activity has taken place or that the Kremlin is connected to the allegations at all. Russia has already denied any involvement.
The Russian government has been accused several times over the past year of having meddled with and interfered in the elections of Western nations, most notably the U.S. presidential election and the U.K.'s referendum on whether to remain or leave the EU.
From former U.S. President Barack Obama to former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, many from the anti-Trump camp have accused Russia of being behind the Democrats' email leaks (a claim that WikiLeaks' has categorically denied), which shed light on the internal corruption within the Democratic National Committee and embarrassed the Clinton campaign.
U.S. intelligence agencies also published unverified reports linking Russia to a widespread "propaganda campaign" to undermine the Clinton campaign in favor of Donald Trump.
Later in 2016, Ben Bradshaw, a member of Parliament for the U.K.'s Labor Party, claimed that Russian hackers "probably" swayed the Brexit vote in favor of the "Leave" campaign.
Bradshaw also seemed to make a pseudo-prophetic remark while speaking at an emergency debate on the situation in Syria. After having said that Russian interference in the U.S. election was "now proven," he also said, "There will certainly [be interference] in the French presidential election, they will be involved, and there are already serious concerns in the German secret service that Russia is interfering in the upcoming elections."
Germany is set to hold parliamentary elections in September and Chancellor Angela Merkel has already voiced concern over Russian interference in the country's electoral process.
On the other hand, Bradshaw admitted to the House of Commons that he did not have any evidence to support either of his claims.
One of his colleagues was quoted as saying: "I assume he must be joking and this is a crazy claim from someone who does not want to accept the will of the people." The French government also denied the claims.
Accusations have mounted against Russia who is accused of conspiring to overthrow the government of Montenegro, allegedly in attempts to "sabotage the country's plans to join NATO." The Russian London mission took to Twitter to protest, saying: "Recycling long-discarded news to stoke tensions with Russia. As usual, no evidence, pure innuendo."
Much like the U.S. presidential election, France's election isn't going to be a typical one in 2017, as characterized by Marine Le Pen's rise in the latest French polls. Much like Trump, Le Pen has an uncompromising and unapologetic rhetoric and is a sharp critic of the EU. The candidate wants to stop mass migration.
Meanwhile, protests in Parisian suburbs have been escalating. The situation resembles the 2005 riots, which saw nearly 3,000 arrested and close to 10,000 torched vehicles. The estimated monetary damage was 200 million euros.
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