How many Russian spies has France expelled since the invasion of Ukraine began?

Russian influence in the world is partly based on its soft power, Russian culture, and propaganda media. But the Kremlin knows how to employ its intelligence services, though, when more is needed.

Since the start of Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine, the French special services have reportedly expelled up to fifty Russian spies, according to French media.

Using the Leboncoin.fr website, Russian spies were allegedly approaching French grads with “tender but high-potential profiles” in October 2022, according to Le Monde.

Local aspiring engineers can be tempted to get extra cash. One of them had been hired by a significant French civil-military artificial intelligence technology company, and in 2020, they were still advertising math course options on the Leboncoin.fr website, as LeMonde reported.

This is how an alleged Czech consultant who wanted to further his knowledge got in touch with him. The dates and locations of the lessons, which were scheduled once every three weeks at dinners in a restaurant, were determined after each course.

But his pupil was not who he initially believed. In reality, it was an effort to get on board SVR (Russian foreign intelligence agency), a former KGB agent who was in charge of scientific and technological matters at the Russian embassy’s economic mission in Paris.

This spy, Valentin Vladimirovitch Zakharov, was expelled in November 2020 after being exposed while paying this young engineer cash in exchange for analytical documents on cutting-edge technologies.

France has been eradicating Russian agents ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. Everyone is aware of the spies the other countries may have, and every nation is aware that it has spies at home. But Russian spies and agents of influence activity amplified and crossed the authorized limits.

The revelations of the massacre in Bucha, during the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian town, at the beginning of the war pushed the French services to eradicate Russian agents. French Interior Ministry reported that 35 Russian “diplomats” had been identified and expelled at the time.

A new stunning procedure had been successful a few days ago. Six Russian agents, who were quite traditional spies, were discovered purchasing secret documents from an unnamed French source.

As soon as Russia departed the Council of Europe, there was a third portion. The Russian embassy in Strasbourg was on the verge of closing. The team of this mission included several significant Russian correspondents suspected of being operatives.

Out of a total of 75 to 80 Russian spies, around 50 were ultimately expelled from France. Thus, there has been a significant decline in the Russian intelligence services activity in France. However, there are strong beliefs that not all of them departed, and probably not all informers stopped their activity. Thus, the threat is still present.

A petition demanding the closure of the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center in Paris was created on the global platform for public campaigns Change.org. According to the authors of the petition, the Center is a vivid example of Moscow’s use of its spiritual and cultural institutions to spread its influence and propaganda. 

The Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center in Paris enjoys diplomatic status as it is attached to the Russian Embassy in Paris. This status grants diplomatic immunity and the principle of inviolability within the building.

According to Kremlin critics and some local media, the center could ideally serve as a cover for espionage activities and actions in favor of Moscow. This was stated in a 2016 interview with RFI by French journalist and author of the book “Russian Federation: Investigating Putin’s Networks” Nicolas Hénin.

Read also: Philippot coupled with Le Sommier to spread pro-Russia narratives in France

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