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France seeks new EU sanctions to target Russian disinformation

France is asking Brussels to impose new sanctions to fight Russian disinformation ahead of the upcoming European parliamentary elections, according to media reports.

The draft of the proposal, as seen by journalists at Bloombergwould allow the European Union to impose tougher restrictions on individuals and entities involved in Russia-backed influence operations worldwide.

“Destabilizing activities executed by Russia-related actors have increased everywhere in Europe as well – as the Russian regime has taken actions to undermine democracy, stability and the rule of law through a variety of hybrid instruments,” the draft of the proposal said.

The French initiative is supported by Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland — countries particularly vulnerable to Russian propaganda and disinformation efforts.

Earlier this week, France’s minister for Europe, Jean-Noël Barrot, said in an interview that France is being “pounded” by Russian disinformation, which could impact the results of the EU parliamentary elections in June.

“Not a week goes by without France being the target of coordinated and deliberate maneuvers to disrupt public debate and interfere in the campaign for the European elections,” Barrot added.

One example of Russian disinformation campaigns he mentioned was the creation of so-called “Doppelganger” websites that mimic authentic government or media services but instead post fake stories. The U.S. recently sanctioned two Russians for alleged information operations.

Noël Barrot noted a fake French Ministry of Defence website claiming  that 200,000 French people were being called up to fight in Ukraine. Another website, imitating the French Ministry of Interior, shared false claims that France was tightening entry conditions for Ukrainians.

Many European countries have previously voiced concerns about Russia-related disinformation ahead of the EU election.

This year marks the largest election cycle in history, with approximately half of the global population across 64 countries and the EU expected to head to the polls. This will be the 10th parliamentary election in the EU and the first one after Brexit. Elections will take place in all 27 EU countries as their citizens vote for members to represent them in the European Parliament.

According to a recent report by the Lithuanian security services, Russia has improved the quality and increased the frequency of its information campaigns against Baltic states and Poland. These campaigns have “a significant impact on society and have require a large amount of institutional resources to withstand,” Lithuanian authorities said.

In February, French government officials accused Russia of operating “a long-running online manipulation campaign against Ukraine’s Western allies.” They described this operation as “massive in scope” and “complex in structure.”

During the election season, French officials say Russia is working to confuse and scare voters, discredit some candidates while supporting others, and disrupt major sporting events such as the Paris Olympics and the European soccer championship in Germany.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk

is a reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.

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