Kremlin denies Olympics disinformation campaign, calls Microsoft allegation slanderous

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends the 8th Russian-Chinese EXPO and the 4th Russian-Chinese Forum on Interregional Cooperation in Harbin, China, May 17, 2024. 

Sergei Bobylyov | Via Reuters

The Kremlin denied an allegation that it is waging a disinformation campaign against France, its president and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The Microsoft Threat Analysis Center, or MTAC, said Sunday that “Russia is ramping up malign disinformation campaigns against France, French President Emmanuel Macron, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.”

The MTAC said it had observed “old tactics blending with artificial intelligence (AI) in malign activity that may intensify as the 2024 Paris Opening Ceremony approaches.” It said the operations had two principal aims, to “denigrate the reputation of the IOC” and to “create the expectation of violence breaking out in Paris at the Games.”

On Tuesday, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov characterized the MTAC’s accusations against Russia as slander, news agency RIA Novosti reported.

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“They [the allegations], rather, belong to the category of such messages — simply sweeping criticism, which has no basis in argument. Unfortunately, we are increasingly encountering this. But it has nothing to do with reality, it is absolute slander and nothing more,” Peskov told reporters.

Russia has frequently lambasted the Olympic Games after Russian and Belarusian athletes were banned from participating in the competition under the Russian or Belarusian flags due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

They are able to compete as “neutral” competitors, however. The IOC has said that athletes who actively support the war, or who are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies, cannot compete.

Franco-Russian relations sour

Already at a low ebb after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s relations with France have deteriorated further in recent months after French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that Paris would consider sending ground troops to Ukraine if such a request was made.

The comments sent NATO’s leadership and other members of the military alliance scrambling to deny that there were any plans to send ground troops into Ukraine, a move that would put Russia and NATO in direct conflict.

Russia’s pro-Kremlin media wasted no time in lambasting Macron for his comments, and relishing the discomfort they caused for Western allies, and have frequently warned that French troops would be targeted if deployed in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Ukraine’s losses are eight times higher than those of Russia during an interview with Chinese media.

Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

Russia has meanwhile positioned itself as the victim of “Russophobia” by the West. On Tuesday, the Russian Embassy in Paris demanded that the French authorities stop what it claimed was a misinformation campaign directed against Russia.

“The embassy appeals to the French authorities to put an end to the unprovoked and unsubstantiated anti-Russian information campaign,” a communiqué issued by the Russian Embassy on social media platform X said.

“The Russian Embassy in France expresses its strong protest against a new Russophobic campaign launched in the French media. The hysteria unleashed is already directly affecting the security of Russian citizens in France, including Embassy staff,” the embassy claimed, without giving further details.

France has not yet responded on the comments.

Disclosure: CNBC’s parent company NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.

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