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Macron expresses 'astonishment' over Russian official's anti-France diatribe

France is increasingly concerned about information attacks by Russia (Sameer Al-Doumy)
France is increasingly concerned about information attacks by Russia (Sameer Al-Doumy)

President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said he had been astonished by a diatribe against France by a senior Russian official broadcast by a leading French TV channel as tensions rise further between Paris and Moscow.

Macron had enraged the Russian leadership last month by hardening his tone on the conflict sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, refusing to rule out sending ground troops and insisting Europe had to do all that was needed for a Russian defeat.

Pyotr Tolstoy, the deputy speaker of the Russian lower house of parliament, told a correspondent of France's BFMTV in Moscow this week that if France sent troops to Ukraine it would end with them being sent home "in coffins draped in the tricolour flag at Orly" airport.

Tolstoy -- a fluent French speaker who is the great-great grandson of the legendary Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy -- warned that every French soldier on Ukrainian territory would be killed and also launched a homophobic attack against Prime Minister Gabriel Attal who is openly gay.

"I think the comments are sufficiently unworthy that they should not be commented on," Macron said after an EU summit in Brussels.

But he expressed "astonishment at such a nervousness... on the part of Russian officials".

Macron has repeatedly made clear his alarm of a general "hardening" of Russia's positions in the last months not just on the battlefield in Ukraine but also in a ramping up of information attacks against France.

French authorities have uncovered numerous fake news articles apparently aimed at sapping public support for Ukraine, including an article falsely alleging Macron postponed a visit to the country due to an assassination plot.

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