European powers warn of spike in Russian propaganda before EU elections

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LA CELLE SAINT-CLOUD, France - France, Poland and Germany accused Russia on Monday of putting together an elaborate network of websites to spread pro-Russian propaganda to undermine their governments, warning of a mass spread of such content ahead of EU elections in June.

Western nations have repeatedly accused Russian operatives of using social media and the internet to spread false or misleading information to undermine them, promote Russia or attempt to sway public opinion in their countries against backing Ukraine in its fight against Russia's invasion.

"We are in a period of vulnerability with the European elections and, regarding France, the Olympics," French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne told a joint news conference with his Polish and German counterparts at a French chateau near Paris.

The ministers said they had created a joint mechanism to detect and respond to potential Russian internet attacks.

They met as part of efforts to reinvigorate the "Weimar Triangle" platform of political cooperation between Germany, France and Poland created in 1991.

In a media briefing ahead of the meeting, French diplomatic sources said VIGINUM, the French watchdog that monitors foreign digital interference, had identified some 193 websites that aimed to broadly spread information from pro-Russian sources as well as Russian news outlets and institutions.

"The objective seems to be to cover the Russo-Ukraine conflict by presenting the 'special military operation' positively and denigrating Ukraine and its leaders," a French diplomat said, referring to Moscow's term for the invasion.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied accusations of spreading false or misleading information. After the last European Parliament elections in 2019, Russia's Security Council described allegations that Moscow had propagated disinformation to sway voters as absurd.

France has in particular called out Russian activities in Africa, saying that Moscow-linked actors have tried to discredit Paris in West Africa, saturating regular media and social media.

'ATTACKS ON OUR DEMOCRACY'

That has prompted multi-faceted actions by France ...

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