Diplomatic Tensions Rise as Russia Accuses France of Sending Mercenaries to Ukraine

Friday January 19, 2024 - 22:10:01
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FILE - Lawmakers are seen in session in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 27, 2018.
FILE - Lawmakers are seen in session in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 27, 2018.
Moscow (diplomat.so) - Vyacheslav Volodin, the Chairman of the Russian State Duma, announced on Friday that the lower house is set to formally question France's National Assembly regarding allegations of French mercenaries participating in the conflict in Ukraine. This development follows a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday, asserting that its forces had killed more than 60 foreign mercenaries, primarily French citizens, in a strike on a building in Kharkiv. The Ministry, however, provided no concrete evidence to support this claim.
France promptly rebuffed the accusations, maintaining that it was supporting Ukraine's defense without deploying mercenaries. Volodin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, emphasized on the Telegram messaging app, "In France, the mercenary trade is forbidden by law. It is important for us to know whether they (French lawmakers) are aware that someone, violating the law, is sending fighters to Ukraine."

French officials dismissed the allegations as part of a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Russia. A senior aide to Thomas Gassilloud, head of the National Assembly's defense committee, stated, "It's a disinformation plot conducted by Russia." A diplomatic source from France labeled the claims as "Russian propaganda" and cautioned about potential future provocations, saying, "More than anything, it gives you a taste of what the Russians are preparing. You will see many more insidious acts over the months to come."

The Russian State Duma plans to address the French parliament during its next meeting on January 23, according to Volodin. In response to the allegations, Russia summoned the French ambassador to the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, further escalating diplomatic tensions between the two nations. As conflicting narratives persist, the international community closely watches the evolving situation in the Ukraine conflict.

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