Allegations of Russian Interference in the Yellow Vests Protests in France
France began an investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the ongoing Yellow Vests protests. Reports surfaced regarding social media accounts being tied to Moscow, in an alleged effort to encourage and amplify the protests.
The Yellow Vests protests began with public dissatisfaction with a tax on fuel that was planned to be implemented in January of 2019. The French government revoked this tax on fuel nearly a week ago, but the Yellow Vests movement continued. The protesters aimed to draw awareness to “high taxes, the rising cost of living, poverty” whilst criticizing politicians for being “elitist, arrogant, and out of touch.”
Nearly 600 Twitter accounts that normally promote Kremlin interests have been focusing on the protests going on in France for the past few weeks, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy. These accounts typically focus on the U.S. or British news, but they have made ample use of the hashtag ‘#giletsjaunes’, meaning “Yellow Vests” in French, in recent days.
In addition to the hashtag, many of these accounts have tweeted pictures of injured protesters, that were reportedly taken from other protests that have no connection to the Yellow Vests movement. Outsiders have interpreted these methods as Russia attempting to intensify the movement for onlookers outside of France.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denied all claims regarding Russian interference. He claimed that Russia has not interfered in the domestic politics of any other country.
On Monday night, French president, Emmanuel Macron, attempted to cater to protesters’ concerns in hopes of ending the protests. He accepted a few of the demands and ordered immediate changes to taxes and additional policies, but failed to “restore a special tax on households with assets above 1.3 million euros ($1.5 million) that he cut last year.”
Several accounts show that protesters are still not satisfied and plan to continue protesting to showcase their discontent. Since Macron spoke, there is no new information regarding Russia’s alleged interference. It is unclear what role Russia played, or if it played any role at all. Efforts by the Kremlin could have encouraged the protests, but the major catalyst of these events still remains the discontent among the working class in France.