Navigation and useful materials
Russian propaganda devoted quite a lot of attention to the unrest in France, which broke out on the night of June 28. While the streets of French cities were restless, the ruscists launched fireworks of manipulation into the information space.
The Kremlin regime gloated and tried to compensate for its image losses after Prigozhin’s putsch. Russian propagandists predict a conflict between the ideas of multiculturalism and nationalism that will tear Europe apart. They are glad that this will be facilitated by the wave of emigrants to Europe.
Here are the messages and narratives of propaganda that it used during the riots:
- The clashes are evidence of the decline of Western civilization.
- In France, the civil split is between the descendants of immigrants from former colonies and nationalist France. These are the consequences of the “dirty colonial pages of Paris.”
- NATO operations and support for Ukraine led to an influx of migrants.
- There will be a nationalist response from France. Following it, the crisis will come to Italy and Germany; in these and other countries, the ultra-right will come to power.
- In France, weapons that the West supplied to Ukraine were seen in the clashes. The riots were also attended by “Bandera” activists from Maidan.
- In the West, the rally is dispersed by force, and Russia is hypocritically criticized for similar actions.
- With the support of Ukraine, France deserved havoc in its cities.
- The clashes were provoked by US financiers, who thus wanted to undermine Europe economically.
Personal attacks against Macron
At the same time, the Russians personally attacked French President Emmanuel Macron. “What is the reason for such instability in France? The answer lies in the policy of the current President Macron, wrote the head of the State Duma Volodin. Confidence in Macron is decreasing. The ratings have fallen to a minimum. If the presidential election were held now, it would be won by Marine Le Pen.”
Via Telegram, Macron’s video was distributed with the comment that he was having fun at a concert at Elton John’s when unrest began in the country. A video was also shown with protesters burning a dummy with Macron’s photo with a comment: “In France, the public ‘executions’ of President Macron continue.”
Propaganda attacked the entire system of the authorities in France as a whole, convincing that the protests were the result of the fact that they “do not hear the people.”
Former Russian President Medvedev, in his usual manner, wrote on Twitter: “Macron has said several times that he is on the side of Ukraine. Perhaps it is time to put an end to this verbal diarrhoea and take the side of France.” In Telegram, Medvedev quoted Gogol about the events in France: “I can see nothing — only pigs’ snouts instead of faces, nothing else…”
Russia is waiting for a destructive conflict between multiculturalism and nationalists
The key propaganda line is to present the social order of the West as its fatal vulnerability. Allegedly, that this is because of an unsuccessful migration policy, multiculturalism that has failed, and Europe that has lost its culture. Russian propagandist Elena Kondrateva-Salgero, who works in France, said that the current events were being used by all left-wing countries to raise people. According to her, these clashes “finally allowed almost all live TV channels to call things by their names — those that were absolute taboos — and this is very good.”
Propagandist Solovyov quoted French politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who, according to Ukrainian journalists from Texty.org.ua, systematically disseminates Russian narratives. The politician said that “France needs to leave the Schengen zone to prevent new riots.”
Henry Sardaryan, dean of the Governance and Politics Department at MGIMO, said on Russian Television that this is “a failure of the open-door policy, the integration policy — if you destroy your culture, then there is nowhere to integrate people. This is a farewell to the illusion that Europe can be a melting pot and accept everyone, this is a defeat of the policy of multiculturalism. This is the defeat of the political system that has developed in France. But let no one fixate on France because the same thing will soon happen in Italy and in Germany. We will soon see such a situation in almost all large countries where there are problems with illegal migration. … There are catastrophic problems all over Europe. Italy has the Lampedusa island… In these 3 days, 20 times more migrants arrived there than the average for 22 years… The authorities are not able to cope with this… Very soon, both in France and in Italy, we will see the growth of far-right radicalism. Because when you, like in France, see how houses and entire streets are burned down, the natural reaction of the average voter — a European tradition — when people are scared, they vote for the right, when they are very scared — for the far right. We will see a big shift in these states towards radical and marginal policies.”
LDPR leader Leonid Slutsky also focused on illegal migrants and stated: “The increase in the influx of refugees and illegal migrants to the countries of the Old World is directly related to the invasions of NATO coalitions in Iraq, Libya, Syria, as well as support for the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine. The French leadership got carried away with helping Ukraine and completely forgot about its country, which had accumulated a lot of problems.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, at a briefing held on June 28, just one day after the first night of unrest, accused France of neocolonialism, mirroring accusations against Russia and its behaviour in African countries in her usual way. “The world community remembers the dirty pages of the colonial policy of Paris, which seeks to exploit the resources of the continent today, masking its neocolonial methods and schemes with false rhetoric and imaginary concern for the welfare of Africans.” This is how she reacted to Emmanuel Macron’s words that Russia is “the only colonial state of the 21st century” that is waging an imperialist war and destabilizing African countries.
At a briefing on July 6, Zakharova hinted that the violence began because of police chauvinism and the growth of racism in France. “Any form of police violence against citizens is unacceptable, especially if it is motivated by a person’s ethnicity. One cannot but pay attention to the recent increase in xenophobia, hostility towards migrants, manifestations of anti-Semitism in France.
The French authorities must take seriously the growing radicalization of society and be attentive to the growth of xenophobic and racist sentiments in the country.”
At the same time, propaganda seemed to suggest an answer to the French, quoting Marine Le Pen: “While our country was robbed, before the economic and judicial chaos, would you agree that there can be only one answer – nationalist?”
These narratives show how Russian propaganda simultaneously promotes two opposite positions for their collision and radicalization.
On the one hand, there is a nationalist message about the failure of multiculturalism and an absurd emigrant policy, in particular, through NATO, and on the other hand, the opposite international one, about the growth of xenophobic and racist sentiments and the “colonial guilt,” in this case, of Paris. It is clear that Moscow does not care about any principle, except one — the promotion of its dominance through the sowing of chaos and the weakening of others. It can be assumed that Putinism will continue to try to play a racist card, inflating interethnic conflicts.
The idea is imposed that France deserved the havoc in its cities because of its support for Ukraine. Host Gia Saralidze “burned bridges” with France and displayed “righteous anger” — why it does not allow Russia to simply destroy Ukraine: “When they send weapons that kill our people in the Donbas and our soldiers — there will be no empathy, the worse — the better. Let it burn. Paris, Lyon, Nantes — let them burn. There is no empathy. All the idealistic pictures that evoked stories about France, French literature — they are in the past.”
Hooligans with weapons from Ukraine
Propaganda tried to spread a fake that would directly undermine assistance to Ukraine. It was mentioned at a fairly high level because Zakharova made a statement about it: “I will raise another topic for reflection in Paris. The weapons that were delivered to Kyiv end up in the hands of the same protesters and are used against the police there in France.”
The message was also spread by other channels of disinformation. Thus, the “war correspondent” Alexander Kots, a mythmaker about the “glorious Hostomel heroes” near Kyiv in March 2022, quoted the French pro-Russian politician Éric Zemmour (who is also in the database of Ukrainian investigative journalists as an agent of Russia’s influence in Europe). “Today, in the context of the conflict in Ukraine and the uncontrolled circulation of weapons sent by NATO to help Ukraine, it is obvious that these weapons are actively used in France during the current riots.” A narrative that is created to intimidate Europeans: “not only assault rifles, but also compact modern sniper rifles, as well as Javelin anti-tank missile systems enter the black market of Europe.”
Referring to a site allegedly from Poland that had already been exposed as fake, propagandist Solovyov’s Telegram spread the following quote: “Opening borders for Ukrainian refugees was a fatal mistake. It’s like opening a gateway to hell, from which the devils now emerge”: the Polish magazine Niezalezny Dziennik Polityczny reports that Ukrainian refugees participated in mass riots in France for money.
During the riots in France, Ukrainians take an active part in the so-called ‘paid attacks.’ In other words, the former protesters of the Maidan are ready to accept any side of the conflict for money, but the destructive side, of course, is more attractive to any Bandera activist.”
This intersects with the established ruscist narrative that tries to demonize Ukrainian refugees. The message about Ukrainian weapons during the riots did not spread in France, but it can be expected that it will continue to appear in the future, in the hope of attracting the attention of the public, prone to uncritical consumption of information and conspiracy thinking.
A similar message is about foreign volunteers who fought for Ukraine and now pose a threat to Europe: “But the most interesting thing is that Europe suffers from mercenaries who have tasted blood in Ukraine. In April, two of them were detained in France. They took cartridges and clips for automatic rifles with them to their homeland. Last November, five members of the local neo-Nazi group Order of Hagal, which maintained contacts with the Ukrainian Azov regiment, were arrested in Italy — they were planning an attack on a police station in Naples.”
Moreover, the Russians tried to manipulatively equate the unrest in France, the purpose of which was to create disorder and robbery, with protests in the former USSR for democracy and the European path, in particular, the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine.
Propagandists argued about the alleged danger of France losing control over nuclear weapons, mirroring the comments that were made about Russia after Prigozhin’s military coup.
One of them, Nikolai Starikov, once again “exposed” the American conspiracy and said that the clashes were inspired by the United States to move production to America. “Europe’s economy will die down. Europe will turn into a country of green lawns, with goats and cows grazing. The factories will be located in the United States.”
The manner of covering the protests in France generally fits into the Russian narrative about the weakening of Europe and the coming to power of far-right politicians, “friends of the Kremlin.”
Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security