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GIOR Investigation: Russian Media Amplifies Far-Right Candidate Marine Le Pen Ahead of French Presidential Elections

March 23rd, 2022 11:32

A Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) inves­ti­ga­tion has found Russ­ian state-backed media is ampli­fy­ing far-right can­di­date Marine Le Pen ahead of the French pres­i­den­tial elec­tions sched­uled for April. Most Russ­ian reports empha­size Le Pen’s crit­i­cism of West­ern sup­port for Ukraine and NATO, which she has promised to leave if she wins the elec­tion. Russ­ian state media out­let TASS recent­ly report­ed that Le Pen has warned an embar­go on Russ­ian oil would be tan­ta­mount to ‘harakiri.’ Accord­ing to a TASS report:

March 9, 2022 PARIS, March 9. /TASS/. If the EU is going to embar­go sup­plies of Russ­ian oil that would be the equiv­a­lent of “com­mit­ting harakiri,” French law­mak­er and pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Marine Le Pen told the France‑2 TV chan­nel.  “Try­ing to harm Rus­sia by com­mit­ting harakiri is a poor method,” she said, com­ment­ing on the EU’s pro­pos­al to impose an embar­go on the deliv­er­ies of Russ­ian oil. “In this case, our econ­o­my is run­ning the risk of dying first and it seems like nowa­days that’s what we are aspir­ing to do,” she insisted.

Read the rest here.

Anoth­er recent TASS report ampli­fied Le Pen’s claims that sanc­tions against Rus­sia would hit the French in the first place and that it is bet­ter to “achieve peace” instead of send­ing weapons to Ukraine.

TASS is a major Russ­ian state-owned news agency and one of the largest news agen­cies world­wide. Accord­ing to a 2017 research paper on TASS’ cov­er­age of the Ukraine cri­sis,  Rus­sia uses the news agency for inter­na­tion­al pro­pa­gan­da in its hybrid war.

Russ­ian state-backed out­let Sput­nik has also exten­sive­ly cov­ered Le Pen’s com­ments on the Ukraine war in recent weeks, includ­ing claims that:

  • West­ern arms sup­plies to Ukraine would “verge on par­tic­i­pa­tion” in the war.
  • A cold war against Rus­sia would be a “step in the wrong direction.”
  • The EU should resort to diplo­ma­cy rather than arms sup­plies to resolve the crisis.

Sput­nik is a state-owned Russ­ian news agency estab­lished in 2014 and oper­at­ing in over 30 lan­guages. It has been fre­quent­ly accused of spread­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion and was banned by the Euro­pean Union fol­low­ing Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine in February.

Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion out­lets have also repeat­ed­ly cov­ered Le Pen’s state­ments against NATO, which she promised to leave if she wins the elec­tion. Days before the inva­sion, Unit­ed World Inter­na­tion­al pub­lished sev­er­al tweets by Le Pen in which she crit­i­cized NATO, advo­cat­ed for stronger rela­tions with Rus­sia, and stressed that she did not con­sid­er the threat of an inva­sion to be real. Fol­low­ing the inva­sion, the US des­ig­nat­ed Unit­ed World Inter­na­tion­al over its links to Russ­ian influ­ence oper­a­tive Yevge­ny Prigozhin. A GIOR inves­ti­ga­tion has revealed that the web­site appears to be con­trolled by a pro-Russ­ian Turk­ish polit­i­cal party.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report recent­ly report­ed that Rus­sia seeks to influ­ence France’s infor­ma­tion space ahead of the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions and that far-right fig­ures Eric Zem­mour and Marine Le Pen are the can­di­dates most sup­port­ive of Rus­sia. Oth­er recent GIOR cov­er­age of French efforts to counter for­eign influ­ence oper­a­tions has included:

  • In Feb­ru­ary, we report­ed that Face­book announced a series of ini­tia­tives on its plat­forms to fight dis­in­for­ma­tion ahead of the French pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Agence France-Presse and Google France have launched sim­i­lar programs.
  • In Novem­ber, we report­ed that the French gov­ern­ment set up an office to counter for­eign media manip­u­la­tion ahead of the 2022 Pres­i­den­tial elections.
  • In Octo­ber, we report­ed on far-right French politi­cians act­ing as pro-Russ­ian polit­i­cal forces in France.