RUSSIA

Russians Say They’re Sick Of Hacking Accusations

After thousands of Macron campaign documents were breached on Friday, regular Russians claim that their country is being scapegoated

RUSSIA
Illustration: Vocativ
May 07, 2017 at 10:47 AM ET

Analysts say that the Russian intelligence-affiliated hacking group known as Fancy Bear was behind a massive leak targeting French presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron, just two days before he faces off against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s high-profile elections.

But as investigations continue into Russian interference into the French (as well as American and German) elections, Russians on social media are echoing their government’s plea of denial.

Pro-Putin groups are framing the allegations as the “continued demonization of Russia,” saying that the West is publishing news on “imaginary Russian hackers.”

Caption: A Russian tweeter writes, “Imaginary Russian hackers. It’s not even funny,” with a link to an article about the U.S. accusing Russia of carrying out the Macron leaks, from a state-owned newspaper.

“Are there any hackers elsewhere, besides in Russia?” wrote an anonymous user in a closed group on Vkontakte, the Russian version of Facebook. Nikolai Starikov from St. Petersburg tweeted that “the West is constantly cultivating the image of the enemy, and the role of the dark forces is now played by the notorious ‘Russian hackers.”

“If tomorrow a volcano erupted in the U.S., they would blame us too,” joked Igor Haritonov on Vkontakte.

Recent polls show that Macron is set to beat Le Pen by 60-40. For the first time in French history, the two runoff candidates come from neither the traditional Socialist Left nor the Republican Right and the unusually dramatic elections are being viewed as a test of populism in the age of Donald Trump and Brexit.

Macron’s campaign has said that Russia was behind months-long campaigns to hack its emails, carry out cyber attacks and distribute fake news against Macron through the use of bots and trolls. Kremlin-backed news sites both in Russia and abroad have long promoted Macron’s competitor, Marine Le Pen, who has financial ties to Russia and has campaigned on the idea of “Frexiting” the European Union in favor of fostering warmer relations with Russia.

U.S. intelligence agencies said in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered  Russian hackers to breach data belonging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in order to swing the election in favor of Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton recently said that she lost last year’s election partly due to “Russian WikiLeaks,” an organization alleged to be a Kremlin tool.

On Friday, WikiLeaks went on to tweet the #MacronLeaks, which it called “a significant leak,” just as the two candidates finished their campaigning activities and were legally barred from making any further public comments. It said that among the nine gigabytes of stolen memos and emails, it had “not yet discovered fakes.”