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France Alleges Disinformation Campaign by Russia, Wagner Group

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A video that claimed France had secretly ordered the attack on nine Chinese nationals in the Central African Republic’s gold mine by armed men went viral. The attack that took place in March is said to discredit Russian mercenary group Wagner in African nations.

According to the rebel fighter in the video, “the French want to drive Wagner out of Africa.”

The video raised red flags in Paris at a media monitoring unit at the foreign ministry established last year as part of a comprehensive diplomatic effort to rekindle connections in France’s former colonies in Africa after decades of dwindling clout.

According to the foreign ministry, the unit swiftly linked the video to a collection of Facebook and Twitter profiles that included Wagner and had links to Russian disinformation. Wagner group is an outfit close to the Kremlin that has troops in Ukraine and has fought on the side of several governments in Africa.

Two diplomats at the French foreign ministry said that the video was an illustration of a rising Russian influence effort that amplifies critiques of France and portrays Moscow as an ally in Central and West Africa. French involvement in the mine attack was denied by the ministry.

The attack’s perpetrators have not been apprehended.

According to officials, Russian propaganda has flourished in Africa amid resentments about France’s long history of military interventions and intrusive diplomacy.

French officials detailed France’s urgent efforts to offset Moscow’s influence, which Paris feels undercuts a long-term diplomatic effort aimed at resolving the past and how its perception in Africa.

Wagner linked accounts spreading anti-French content

According to two diplomats involved in the initiative, the unit has identified approximately 100 accounts linked to Russia or Wagner that are disseminating anti-French content, in coordination with the French state’s Vigilance and Protection against Foreign Digital Interference (Viginum) service.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the creator of Wagner, has acknowledged that Russia and Wagner have a history of manipulating the media and spreading misinformation. Wagner was penalised by the European Union in February for allegedly violating human rights and disseminating false material, notably in Africa.

Not all anti-French sentiment in Africa, however, can be attributed to Russia. Many critical social media accounts on France’s disproportionate involvement in African matters reflect real concerns about the deaths of civilians caused by French military operations.

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, said that some critiques “are true” in Kinshasa at the conclusion of a four-day trip to central Africa in March. He was referring to the claim that France had retained colonial views even after West Africa gained independence.

According to Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, France has been meddling in the internal affairs of African countries for decades, removing presidents it didn’t like, and erecting “a neo-colonial system of influence” in the process. She claimed that Russia, in contrast, did not meddle in the internal affairs of other nations.

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