French candidate Emmanuel Macron accuses Russia of hacking
Kremlin denies hacking ‘En marche!’ website of presidential favourite hostile to Russia
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, during a two-day visit to Algeria – his campaign has accused Russia of attempting to sabotage the campaign. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images
The resignation of the US national security adviser Michael Flynn over improper contacts with Russia has coincided with unprecedented accusations by Emmanuel Macron’s presidential campaign that Moscow is attempting to sabotage his candidacy.
Mr Macron, the former economy minister and former adviser to president François Hollande, would come in second to Marine Le Pen, the leader of the populist, extreme right-wing Front National (FN) in the first round of the election on April 23rd, but would defeat her in the May 7th run-off, polls indicate.
Richard Ferrand, a socialist member of the National Assembly and secretary general of Mr Macron’s centrist movement, “En marche!”, has accused Russia of attempting to sabotage the campaign, in claims made on France 2 television and in the columns of Le Monde newspaper.
“En marche!” has been the victim of “several thousand monthly attacks . . . to hack into our data base and emails and pirate them,” Mr Ferrand wrote in Le Monde. Close to half the attacks originate in Ukraine, he said.
Benjamin Griveaux, Mr Macron’s spokesman, said the “En marche!” website was hacked for nine minutes on Tuesday.
Le Pen position
Ms Le Pen approves of the Russian annexation of Crimea and opposes the resulting sanctions against Russia. She wants to take France out of the Nato alliance, the euro, and probably out of the EU.
By contrast, Mr Macron “pleads for a strong Europe capable of making our values and priorities heard”, Mr Ferrand said.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, recently told the Russian news agency Izvestia that he obtained “interesting information” about Mr Macron from Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails.
Mr Ferrand said Russia Today and SputnikNews, which are financed by the Russian government, have published “the most defamatory rumours” that Mr Macron is financed by “the rich gay lobby” and is “an American agent in the service of the banking lobby”.
Russia Today and SputnikNews published denials on their websites. A Kremlin spokesman told Reuters that Mr Ferrand’s accusations were “absurd” and that “Russia does not intend to intervene in the electoral process abroad”.
A Moscow bank lent the FN €9 million in 2014, and Ms Le Pen is seeking further loans to finance her campaign.
François Fillon, the conservative Les Républicains candidate who is running third in polls, developed a rapport with Mr Putin when both were prime ministers of their respective countries.
Mr Ferrand noted that Russian media spare Le Pen and Fillon, “as if their notorious proximity with the Russian government immunised them against the calumny targeting Emmanuel Macron. We are facing an orchestrated attempt by a foreign power to destabilise a presidential candidate .”
Mr Ferrand appealed to French media not to relay Russian rumours uncritically, and to internet giants to clearly label Russian sources as organs of propaganda.
According to Neera Tanden, director of the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington DC, French intelligence believes that Russia is supporting Ms Le Pen, as it supported Donald Trump in the US, by hacking thousands of Mr Macron’s documents and having them published on WikiLeaks.
Ms Tanden published a warning titled “France, Next Target of Vladimir Putin”, in Le Monde.
The Canard Enchaîné newspaper reported that the French external agency DGSE is so concerned about Russian interference in the election that it has scheduled a defence council meeting at the Élysée Palace to address the subject.
A report by the CIA and FBI concluded that Russian state propaganda, including Russia Today and SputnikNews, and a network of “trolls” acting through social media, sought to influence the US election.