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France warns Russia not to interfere in the upcoming election

France warns Russia not to interfere in the upcoming election

The French foreign minister has denounced alleged foreign interference in the upcoming presidential election, calling cyberattacks against the pro-European candidate Emmanuel Macron “unacceptable.”

The accusation that actors working on behalf of the Russian government are trying to interfere in April’s election comes just months after U.S. intelligence agencies accused the Kremlin of attempting to interfere with the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Moscow has denied both the U.S. and French charges.

Speaking to the Journal du Dimanche, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said: “This form of interference in French democratic life is unacceptable and I denounce it.”

Ayrault said that Macron — who is currently the favorite to win the election — had been “targeted by cyberattacks,” while the other two main candidates in the election had not been attacked. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is anti-Europe and anti-immigration and has close ties to the Kremlin, while Conservative Republican candidate Francois Fillon is eager to build closer ties with Russia.

“It’s enough to see which candidates, Marine Le Pen or Francois Fillon, Russia expresses preference for in the French electoral campaign,” Ayrault said, adding: “Russia is the first to say that non-interference in domestic affairs is a cardinal rule, and I understand that. Well, France won’t accept its choices being dictated to it either.”

A senior aide to Macron accused Russian hackers of defacing his official website and targeting his email server in a flurry of cyberattacks over the past month, accusations that the Kremlin has denied. Richard Ferrand called on French authorities to ensure that Russia is not able to interfere in the democratic process.

Last week Ayrault told the French parliament: “After what happened in the United States, it is our responsibility to take all steps necessary to ensure that the integrity of our democratic process is fully respected.”

Over the weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lashed out at those accusing Russia of interfering in the U.S. election, claiming it was countries like Germany, France and the U.K. who tried to sway opinion: “U.S. allies have grossly interfered in America’s internal affairs, in the election campaign,” Lavrov said, accusing them of “demonizing Trump.”

The French government will hold an election security meeting Friday to discuss concerns raised by alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential campaign.

According to a report published earlier this month,  the Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) believes Russia will aim to boost Le Pen’s campaign by using bots to post millions of positive messages about the National Front candidate online. They also believe Russian hackers will attempt to steal sensitive emails from opposition candidates and publish any incriminating ones.

Experts have long warned that Russian disinformation campaigns would shift focus from the U.S. to Europe in 2017, targeting high-profile elections like those taking place in the Netherlands, Germany, and France.

Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS

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