Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Russia denies responsibility for Eiffel Tower coffin stunt

(Al Jazeera Media Network) Russia has vehemently denied any role in a stunt that saw several coffins appear at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

In a statement on Tuesday, Russia’s embassy in France expressed “strong protest against a new Russophobic campaign launched in the French media” that it said is affecting the security of its citizens. The complaint came amid a string of denials by Moscow that it was seeking to influence public opinion as the West mulls raising support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion.

“The Russian Federation has never interfered and does not interfere in the internal affairs of France – our country has other, more important priorities,” the embassy statement read.

Five coffins draped in French flag and bearing the inscription “French soldiers of Ukraine” were deposited by three men from a van on Saturday. A Bulgarian, a Ukrainian and a German, who were later arrested said they had been paid to drop the coffins at the iconic tourist spot.

French authorities and media have posited that Russia may have organized the stunt in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion that France could send members of the military to Ukraine to aid and train its forces or allow it to use French weapons to strike inside Russia.

Reporting on the stunt, French media have noted other recent activities that police have said may have involved Russian agents seeking to influence public opinion.

In November, shortly after the outbreak of the Gaza war, more than 200 paintings of the Star of David appeared on buildings around Paris.

France said a Russian destabilization campaign had used automated social media accounts to whip up controversy and confusion about the symbols and feed alarm about surging anti-Semitism.

A Moldovan couple who were arrested in Paris for scrawling Stars of David on a school told media that they acted on orders from “an individual in Russia.”

Last month, red hands were painted on a Holocaust memorial in Paris. Police believe the perpetrators fled abroad.

Ahead of the EU elections on June 6, reports of Russian efforts to influence the outcome and destabilize the bloc have been rife.

The three men arrested over the latest stunt, who said they were paid $434 to deposit the coffins, appeared before a judge on Sunday.

Officials have said investigations are under way to determine if the stunt was organized from abroad.

Despite its claims of innocence, Moscow appeared unable to contain its anger against Paris on Tuesday.

The Kremlin described recent allegations by Microsoft that Russia stepped up an online disinformation campaign taking aim at France and the upcoming Paris Olympics as “absolute slander”.

According to Microsoft, two Russian-backed entities have organized more than a dozen French websites spreading false news to denigrate the reputation of the International Olympic Committee and create the impression that the Summer Games will be marred by violence.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov that there was no substance in the allegations.

He announced that Russia could not guarantee that western army instructors who train Ukrainian soldiers would not be targeted by the Russian military.

“Any instructors who are engaged in training the Ukrainian regime do not have any immunity,” he told the press.



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