PARIS, France – An aide to French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, February 14, accused Russia of trying to derail his campaign by spreading false rumors through state media, echoing allegations of Russian meddling in the US vote.
Macron’s spokesman Benjamin Griveaux accused the Kremlin of mounting a “smear campaign” against the 39-year-old centrist former economy minister, a staunch defender of the European Union, who is riding high in polls.
“The Kremlin has chosen its candidates: Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen,” Griveaux told the broadcaster i-Tele, referring to the conservative Republicans candidate who is pushing for closer ties with Moscow and the leader of the anti-immigration, anti-EU National Front.
Russia’s choice was “for a very simple reason: they do not want a strong Europe, they want a weak Europe,” he accused.
Griveaux accused the state-owned international Russia Today (RT) channel, which is building up its French service ahead of the election, and the Sputnik news agency of trying to taint Macron, who was forced last week to deny rumors of having had a gay affair.
The Kremlin, which US intelligence officials accused of interfering to boost Donald Trump over his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the US race, vehemently denied the latest allegations.
“We never had, and do not have, the intention of interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries, and especially not in their electoral process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
“The authorities in Moscow have never done that and do not intend on doing so.”
RT and Sputnik, both of which have French-language sites, echoed the denials.
In an opinion article in the daily Le Monde on Tuesday titled “Russia must not be allowed destabilize the French presidential election”, the secretary-general of Macron’s movement En Marche (On The Move) accused RT and Sputnik of “relentlessly spreading the most slanderous rumors”.
“One day he is being financed by ‘a rich gay lobby’, the next he is an ‘American agent of the banking lobby’,” Richard Ferrand complained.
Macron last week denied he was cheating on his wife with the head of French radio.
Griveaux on Tuesday also pointed a finger at Russia over a flurry of cyberattacks on Macron’s campaign site in the past month.
“Half of the attacks… come from Ukraine whose links to hackers and people responsible for cyberattacks present in Russia are well-known,” he said.
In December, France’s national cybersecurity agency ANSII had warned against the risk of cyberattacks during the election campaign.
During a visit to Algeria on Tuesday Macron told Agence France-Presse he welcomed Russia’s assurances of neutrality.
“They should pass on to the message to Russian media not to relay false rumors,” he said, adding that he remained “vigilant”.
An Opinionway poll Tuesday showed Le Pen leading the first round of the election on April 23 with 27%, ahead of Macron on 22% and Fillon, who is battling an expenses scandal, on 20%.
The poll of 1,422 voters showed Macron going on to handily beat Le Pen in May’s runoff between the top two candidates. – Rappler.com
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