France warns Department of Foreign Affairs about Russian disinformation targeting Irish voters

French agency says Russian efforts have become more pronounced generally in the run-up to the European elections in June

French officials have warned the Department of Foreign Affairs about efforts by Russia to extend its disinformation activities into Ireland in the run-up to next month’s European elections.

The network of Russian websites and social media accounts was first revealed last February when French security officials alleged Moscow was using it to sow discord in France and other EU countries by exploiting grievances around divisive issues such as immigration.

The aim, according to Viginum, a newly formed French agency tasked with countering hostile disinformation campaigns, is to erode European support for Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia, boost the image of Russia abroad and foster discontent within western societies.

Last week French officials contacted their counterparts in the Department of Foreign Affairs to inform them that since March these efforts have extended into Ireland and have become more pronounced generally in the run-up to the European elections which are due to take place here on June 7th.


Security services believe Russia wishes to see candidates from the extremes of the political spectrum succeed in the elections in the hope this will weaken EU support for Ukraine.

The network of websites and social media accounts is adapted for each country but for the most part do not produce original content, instead repeating talking points from Russian or pro-Russian personalities or pro-Kremlin news agencies.

Since it was first revealed in February the disinformation network, which the French have dubbed “Portal Kombat”, has greatly expanded. In late March, 31 new websites were added, including one created to specifically to target Ireland.

The Irish website appeared on March 20th at the same time as websites targeting Portugal, Cyprus and several other EU countries. The IP address of all the sites is in Russia, France said.

The Irish site remains live. On Friday its main stories included claims the Ukrainian army is shooting civilians fleeing Kharkiv and a piece about “a battle between illegal immigrants from Africa and Irish nationalists in Ireland,” alongside video of a street fight in Dublin.

The website also featured two stories about Irish “journalist” Chay Bowes and his praise for Russia. However, it repeatedly referred to him as “Chay Bose”.

Mr Bowes, who was one of the founders of The Ditch news website before parting ways with the publication, has recently become a prominent online disseminator of pro-Russia propaganda and is currently employed by the television station Russia Today.

Other articles on the site criticised the “demonic” and “satanic” performance of Irish Eurovision entrant Bambie Thug on Tuesday night. “Ireland’s satanists are the most memorable contestants of Eurovision 2024..,” one article read.

Despite the French concerns it is not clear if the website is seeing any success in influencing Irish public opinion. All of the content is written in Irish, which is often of a poor quality. A Telegram channel linked to the site has just seven followers.

French government officials have warned their Irish counterparts that the website may be only the tip of the iceberg in terms of Russian disinformation methods, and that other more discreet networks are likely in operation.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the “pro-Russian Portal Kombat campaign recently uncovered by Viginum”, and said such activities were “completely unacceptable”.

She said the department was in ongoing contact with other Government departments on the issue of foreign interference, and that Ireland worked closely with other EU states on the issue. “International partnerships play an important role in countering the threat posed by such campaigns,” she said.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times