Kremlin: “Yellow vests? We are in business!”

French 'yellow vests' protesters continue their demonstrations even if the number of participants has decreased because of the holidays. On the other hand, the scale of the disorder, the number of arrests made, and the anger of the protesters continue to grow, writes Anna Chesanovska for EU Today.

Every day the press reports on new demands and the next gatherings. The protests are growing in numbers not only across the country, but across Europe. We should ask ourselves who benefits from these demonstrations and riots?

The information about protests is mostly distributed via various social media channels; today these are very powerful tools for influencing society.

 As it was previously reported in the media, hundreds, and now already thousands of accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and VKontakte, which actively promote the Kremlin’s aggressive view of the world, have gradually turned their attention to France and started using hashtags of 'yellow vests' such as #giletsjaunes.

The Directorate-General for Internal and External Security of France declared that, at the moment, it has not been possible to detect Russia's official involvement in the 'yellow vests' protests, yet this conclusion is not final. At the same time, it is worth noting that the French government may not want to aggravate already strained relations with Russia and therefore refrains from making loud statements in public.

In turn, the Kremlin understands that conducting an open game with the EU member states is not the same as with the countries of the former CIS. In Europe, such tricks of the Russian Federation will not be tolerated for a long time, as evidenced by the Skripal case in the UK. Therefore, they wait for the right moment to hit where it hurts the most. More scandals and protests mean that public attention is tied to the internal problems, whilst Russia could, gradually, begin to impose its own rules and continue to promote its projects with a gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine.

It is no secret that the change of power in France, which, among other things, the protesters demand, would be also in the interests of the Kremlin. 

Compared to his predecessors, the current president of France, Emmanuel Macron, takes a tough stance on Russia. Consequently, the Kremlin would be happy to see him replaced with someone more compliant.

In addition, the symbols of 'DPR' and 'LPR', terrorist groups from eastern Ukraine, were repeatedly filmed during the protests. They were waved by none other than individuals from organisations that are associated with the Russian elite.

Among other things, a video in which the protesters communicate and shout slogans in Russian appeared online. The social media was not helping Russia’s cause this time. The protesters carried out an attack on the Cultural Information Centre of the Embassy of Ukraine in Paris. The Russian 'helpers' who arrived to support the protests could not resist passing by a Ukrainian institution. They also left their ‘business cards' in the form of inscriptions 'Parisnash'.

However, following the statements of the French secret services, the Russian media has been happily spreading stories that Russia was not involved in the 'yellow vests' and that all the accusations were unfounded.

Looking through various forums and blogs, it is impossible to find a definitive answer about Russia's involvement in the protests, but, oddly enough, protests always prove beneficial for the Kremlin. And even if they were not organised by the Russian special services, the latter cannot afford not to intervene and take advantage of the good opportunity to continue to heat up the situation. 

The media reports on a movement without leaders, but there are always skilful organisers who stir up and incite the crowd, especially if there is a pre-planned support.

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Anna Chesanovska

Anna Chesanovska

Anna Chesanovska is a journalist and translator based in Paris. She also is a member of the EU Today editorial board.

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