Just months after the U.S. intelligence community determined that the Russian government was behind cyberattacks during the American presidential campaign, the same thing appears to be happening in France.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault accused Russia of hacking activity in the country, calling it “unacceptable.”
“This form of interference in French democratic life is unacceptable and I denounce it,” Ayrault said in an interview that appeared Sunday in Le Journal du Dimanche.
Ayrault earlier told France’s Parliament that “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.”
Aggressive election interference appears to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest strategy to impose his will across borders.
Officials from the Netherlands fear that their country was the target of a fake information campaign last year to sway a vote on a referendum. A purportedly Ukrainian team helped convince the Dutch to reject a European Union trade pact with the country, The New York Times reported. But it turned out the team was actually Russian.
Dutch elections are coming up in March, and officials say hackers linked to the Kremlin have tried repeatedly to break into government websites. Votes are going to be tallied by hand to avoid possible voting-machine tampering, according to the Times. Now the Germans are also worried about what Russia might try in their upcoming elections.
Meanwhile, Norway revealed last month that hackers linked to Russia had attacked government ministry sites and the emails of the Labour Party in an operation strikingly similar to what happened in the U.S.
Ayrault argued that the Russians are targeting French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, a staunch supporter of the European Union — though there is no hard evidence to prove it. Macron’s campaign website and emails have been hit by hackers over the past month, reports Agence France-Presse. He has been the only candidate hit by cyberattacks. A fake news campaign linked to Russia has also been launched against him.
Macron’s rivals for the French presidency are Marine Le Pen, of the extreme-right National Front, and conservative Republican candidate Francois Fillon, who supports closer ties to the Kremlin.
In the U.S. campaign, the CIA concluded that Russian distribution of fake news on the Internet and hacks of Democratic emails were an attempt to sway the U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump.