Photo by ASF
Inspired by The Kremlin?
For the last couple of days, various media outlets have been writing about Russia’s possible involvement in France’s current “Yellow Vest” protests.
We even saw pictures of people at said protests displaying the flag of Donetsk People’s Republic (a separatist region in Ukraine backed by Russia).
According to Ukraine’s SBU (Security Service of Ukraine), the two men in the picture, Fabrice Sorlin and Xavier Moreau, represent an organisation affiliated to the Russian government.
"International borders are not an obstacle to Russian hybrid aggression. The Kremlin uses dirty methods to destroy European stability, which it sees as a threat," declared SBU’s Chief Vasyl Hrytsak.
Several days later, an article titled “France's 'yellow vests' and the Russian trolls that encourage them” appeared in Deutsche Welle. The article talks about 600 suspicious Twitter accounts that regularly share posts with fake news or provocative content under the #giletsjaunes (yellow vests) hashtag. According to a French international relations expert quoted in the article, said posts’ aim is to “create the impression that the yellow vests have deeply divided France and brought it to the brink of civil war.” However, experts also note that all this could be part of the Russian propaganda against Emmanuel Macron.
Europe has seen a considerable rise in right-wing forces in recent years. In 2017, Macron didn’t beat his “National Front” opponent Marine Le Pen until the second round of elections. Throughout her election campaign, Le Pen has repeatedly talked about the importance of a good relationship with Russia; in an interview with CBS she noted that the main danger for Europe today is carrying out a new cold war against Russia. What is more, she came to Putin’s defense and declared that he has done nothing that would make him a killer.
Russian Media Strikes Back
The Kremlin has denied all aforementioned accusations. They have recently been answered by… the Russian media. Until recently, all Russian media outlets did was call the events in France a “Parisian Euromaidan”. On December 16, Ria Novosti published a text message correspondence between Olga Ivshina, a BBC journalist, and a French freelancer. In the exchange, Ivshina keeps asking about a possible Russian trail in the Paris protests, adding that the office is “thirsty for blood”.
And although the content about the “yellow vests” by BBC has not even a mere mention of a “Russian trail”, it only took a day for the Russian media to actively start writing about “BBC’s anti-Russian campaign”. In addition to this, Russian journalists accuse their British colleagues of spreading “fake news” .Representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova declared that Moscow will address a complaint note to OSCE on this issue.
The BBC press office has already confirmed the authenticity of the published exchange. In a reply to RUSSIA TODAY, BBC explains: “As the French Foreign Minister had spoken publicly about media reports of a possible Russian influence in the protests, it was perfectly reasonable for our correspondent to raise the subject. However, in the end her reports made no mention of a possible connection with Russia at all. We stand by our impartial, independent journalism."
The “Yellow Vest” protests were planned using social media and began on November 17 as a peaceful protest.
According to the French legislation, every driver in the country has to have a reflective yellow vest in their car. That’s how the yellow vests became a symbol of protest.
The main reason for demonstrations was the increase of the fuel tax, which caused the Diesel fuel price to go up by 23 %. Said increase of the fuel tax is part of the government’s green policy.
The protests gradually became of an anti-government character.
In a televised address last Monday Emmanuel Macron announced an increase of the minimum wage by 100 euros from January, and said that the senior citizens whose retirement pension is below 2000 euros will no longer have to pay taxes.
A fifth round of protests took place in Paris last weekend.
Due to the armed attack in Strasbourg last week, the French police called for protesters to refrain from going to the streets for security measures.
According to the information acquired by BBC from the French government, about 66 000 people still came out to the streets during the weekend.
"Yellow Vests" Protests in Numbers
Do you see a “Russian trail” in the Paris protests?
What do you think - are protests in general ruled by an outside force?
What will be the results of these demonstrations?
Are BBC and other Western media partial when covering Russia-related issues?
In your opinion, what is the influence of Russian propaganda on the processes in Europe?
Illustrations by: Ana Tavartkiladze