Saying that the tactics being used are similar to those deployed in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, U.S. officials are warning of Russian interference in the hotly contested race as voters in France prepare for their presidential election Sunday.
Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and any role Donald Trump’s campaign played in Russian interference is being looked at now by a congressional investigators and intelligence agencies.
Allegations of computer hacking against a leading candidate opposed by the Kremlin and slanted coverage of the French elections by Russian news agencies, specific concerns are being raised about the dissemination of false news stories.
“I think it’s safe to say by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections,” said Sen. Richard Burr, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Potential collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Putin allies in Russia and Russian interference into the U.S. elections is being currently investigated by Burr’s committee.
“French presidential candidates right now have been the subject of Russia propaganda and disinformation,” said Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on that committee, who receives the same classified intelligence briefings.
With the top two vote-getters advancing to the second round on May 7, voters this weekend will vote on eleven candidates in the first round of the election. Americans familiar with the intelligence around the election say that the Kremlin is both overtly and covertly working to ensure their preferred candidate wins as Russian president Vladimir Putin has expressed support for right-wing nationalist Marine Le Penn.
Warnings about Russian involvement in France have been issued by U.S. Congressional investigators. Including the dissemination of fake news, social media bots that spread misinformation and the hacking and release of information of political entities, including the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, they’ve pointed to tactics U.S. intelligence officials have said were used in the U.S. elections even though they have not provided specific evidence.
policies align closely with Russia’s values and geopolitical goals were proposed by Le Pen. To fund Le Pen’s campaign, loan from from a Russian bank, First Czech Russian Bank, which is owned by a Putin confidant, was taken by her party, the National Front. She was unable to obtain a loan of 9 million Euros from western banks, she said.
Le Pen has gone to Russia several times to meet with members of the legislature and she also traveled to Russia last month to meet with Putin. A photograph of the meeting was released to the press from the Kremlin.
“We don’t want to influence in any way the events going on [in France], but reserve our right to communicate with all representatives of the country’s political powers, as our partners do in Europe and in the U.S.,” Russia’s spokesperson told journalists at a press conference following the meeting between the two leaders.
Russia of trying to influence the outcome of the May election by centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign manager who alleged in February that they were targets of concerted Russian attacks.
“There are hundreds if not thousands of attacks on our computer system, our database and our sites, and by chance this happens to come from the Russian border,” Ferrand, a Socialist MP, told France 2 TV. “We want a strong Europe. That’s why we are suffering from attacks from several information sites belonging to the Russian state.”
“We will not accept any interference whatsoever in our electoral process, whether by Russia or any other state,” said Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
“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,” he told parliament.
The Kremlin denied claims that Russian hackers have been targeting Macron.
“CIA or people in intelligence are absolutely capable of carrying out a cyber-hack as if it is Russian,” said Eric Denece, director and founder of the French Center of Intelligence Research.
(Adapted from CNBC)