Stars of David tags in Paris linked to pro-Russia interference: reports

The Stars of David found painted in several locations in Paris last week are likely part of a destabilization operation tied to a pro-Russia businessman.

Four people — including a Moldovan couple arrested last week — are suspected of painting more than 250 blue Stars of David across the French capital, likely to sow unrest in France amid a surge of antisemitic acts since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau on Tuesday said a judge had been appointed to lead an investigation into the tags, adding it “could not be excluded that the tagging … was carried out at the explicit request of someone living abroad.”

An investigation by Le Monde showed that news of the tagging was amplified via social media accounts affiliated with Doppelgänger — a wide-ranging online operation associated with Russian disinformation campaigns.

“Phone searches suggest that both pairs of authors were in relation to the same third person,” the prosecutor said in a written statement shared with POLITICO.

Le Monde, quoting intelligence sources and media outlet Europe 1, pointed at Anatolii Prizenko, a pro-Russian businessman from Moldova, as the person potentially behind the operation. A man who said he was Prizenko confirmed to Libération on Wednesday he was indeed responsible, claiming the goal was “to support the Jews of Europe.”

France is home to the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in Europe and President Emmanuel Macron has been at pains to ease tensions linked to the war in Gaza.

France like other countries has long been the target of Russian disinformation campaigns — in 2017, emails of French President Emmanuel Macron’s team were hacked a few days before the presidential election with investigations pointing at Russian agents. 

Textbook Russian

Creating divisions among Western society on sensitive issues is a textbook Russian move that was widely used during the 2016 U.S. election campaign.  

According to Maxime Audinet, a research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Research, the KGB orchestrated a similar campaign in the late 1950s, displaying anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas in West Germany to discredit the country in the West by making it seem like there was a resurgence of Nazis. 

The tagging operation comes as French authorities are increasingly concerned about reports of rising antisemitism in the country since the Hamas attacks against Israel on October 7.

The trend has stoked fear in France’s Jewish community, which has been targeted by several islamist terror attacks over the past decade, prompting Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to ensure that the government was “by their side” and “doing everything to protect them.” 

The prospect of a new Russian destabilization campaign is especially worrying a few months ahead of a high-stakes European election. 

“We will not fall into the trap of Russia. We’re going to talk about Europe and convince voters that it protects,” said Loïc Signor, a spokesperson for Macron’s Renaissance party, when asked to comment about the tags and concerns about Russian interference in the election. 

“Russia, Moscow, Vladimir Putin are trying to divert attention from the horrible war they are waging against Ukraine by leaning on the fractures of Western countries,” he added.

Laura Kayali reported from Paris. Sarah Paillou contributed reporting from Paris.

The post Stars of David tags in Paris linked to pro-Russia interference: reports appeared first on Politico.

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