Raskrinkavanje.me: Mais, c’est pas vrais (But, it’s not true) 

Since the onset of the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin has been trying to push the narrative that NATO soldiers are on the battlefield and that Western countries have their representatives aiding Ukrainians in repelling attacks. Recently, the narrative has shifted to the dilemma of whether NATO will directly and officially enter the war with Russia. 

French President Emmanuel Macron, who was “crucified” in pro-Russian media in May, has most frequently spoken about this issue from the perspective of the EU. His NATO and EU colleagues agreed with Macron’s views on sending troops to Ukraine, but the famous Article 5 of the NATO Charter could change everything at some point.  

Macron elaborated on this in an interview with the Economist, stating that no scenario could be ruled out, especially since, as he put it, “we are facing someone who is not ruling anything out,” alluding to Moscow’s actions. He also said that the issue of sending Western troops to Ukraine would inevitably arise if Russia breaches the Ukrainian front lines, adding that it’s naive to believe Russia would stop at Ukraine. 

Some media have characterized his words as a call by the French president to start World War III. Actually, it’s a clear example of distorting the truth. 

Adding fuel to the fire, a former American official claimed that French troops were in Ukraine, citing social media as his sources. He later admitted that he might have been mistaken. But none of that was enough, and the Internet was burning. The situation escalated to the point where the French ministries of foreign affairs and defense had to publicly confirm that there were no French soldiers in Ukraine! 

Furthermore, Russian propaganda adopted a classic journalistic approach of writing focused stories and reported on the death of “the best French sniper, Ernest Barbieri.” Barbieri was allegedly a member of the Foreign Legion and perished somewhere in the Kharkiv region. Even his photo was published. The issue is that the entire story is riddled with inconsistencies. Barbieri is a real person, but he isn’t the one in the photo. He did fight for the Ukrainians, but whether he is the best sniper and whether he is dead—he answered himself: no, on both counts. He recorded a video saying he’s alive and well, hasn’t been in Ukraine for a long time, and certainly is not the best French sniper. Other questions remain: who is this man who seems to lead an enviable lifestyle? Judging by social media, can he even handle a sniper rifle? And, how was a message about working in a mine in Australia sent from his Facebook profile? 

Would a dead top sniper in France have such a colorful life story? 

As we mentioned, France was a recurring topic for Russian propagandists in May, with two other issues also being in the focus, though not directly related to the war in Ukraine. 

First, there was a study on restricting social media for minors in France. The study was commissioned by President Macron himself to protect children from large corporations and the right wing, preventing them from reaching potential recruits. France is exploring ways to implement this, and regional media are questioning: What kind of freedom and democracy will Paris uphold if Macron plans to ban social media in the coming days? 

Nobody knows if or when these restrictions, based on the study’s findings, will be enforced, and they certainly won’t apply to the entire French population. 

Finally, an optical illusion was used to spoil the Olympic flame’s spectacular welcome in Marseille. The flame arrived and was greeted by around 150,000 people who enjoyed a fantastic ceremony. One segment included a flyover by planes releasing the colors of the French flag. Or was it the Russian flag? It depends on whom you ask. Some saw the Russian flag from one angle, while from another, it was clear that French aviation had not made such a mistake. 

When all is said and done, global fact-checkers, especially the French ones, had their hands full debunking various manipulative narratives. If you asked them to sum it up in one sentence, they would probably just retort: Mais, c’est pas vrais. 

Marko Vukajlovic, Raskrinkavanje.me

This project is funded by the US Embassy in Podgorica. The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US Department of State/Government.