As the French prepare to vote Sunday in a presidential election marked by acrimonious debate about Russian influence in Europe, there’s little doubt about which candidate Moscow backs.
Last month, the combative populist Marine Le Pen of the right-wing National Front flew to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin.
…American politics was jolted when 17 intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia had covertly intervened in the 2016 presidential campaign with the aim of electing Donald Trump. Such activity is nothing new in Europe, where Russia has launched a series of clandestine and open efforts to sway governments and exert influence, according to European and U.S. national security officials, diplomats, academics and other experts interviewed by ProPublica in recent weeks.
“The Russians have had an aggressive espionage presence here for a long time,” a senior French intelligence official said. “The Russians now have more spies, more clandestine operations, in France than they did in the Cold War.”