France says it will not accept meddling by Russia or any other country in its upcoming presidential election, and that it could respond to such interference with “retaliatory measures.” The remarks by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on February 15 come in the wake of what U.S. intelligence officials have described a Kremlin-directed campaign of hacking and public-opinion manipulation that aimed to help President Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “We will not accept any interference whatsoever in our electoral process, no more from Russia, by the way, than from any other state,” Ayrault told parliament. Ayrault said France could respond to such meddling with “retaliatory measures when that is necessary.”
His warning came after aides to Emmanuel Macron, a pro-Europe candidate in the two-stage presidential election beginning on April 23, accused Moscow of responsibility for cyberattacks targeting the website and e-mail servers of his campaign.
The Kremlin on February 15 dismissed the accusation as absurd. Russia also denies it interfered in the U.S election in order to help Trump defeat his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, in the November 8 U.S. election.
With France’s major parties on the right and left both struggling amid scandals and internal divisions, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front has emerged as the front-runner to win the first-round vote.