With the United States engulfed in questions about Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, France is determined to head off any such meddling in its coming presidential election. On Monday Richard Ferrand, the director of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign, claimed that the Russians had unleashed “hundreds and even thousands” of hacking attempts against Mr. Macron, and that RT and Sputnik, government-controlled news outlets, are spreading fake news, as they were said to have done during the American election cycle. The stories about Mr. Macron range from allegations that he is engaged in a secret extramarital gay affair to accusations that he used state funds to pay for foreign travel.
Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front candidate, who has received Russian financing, is expected to win the most votes in a crowded field in the first round of voting, on April 23. But Mr. Macron, who is campaigning for a strong European Union that can stand up to Russia, could defeat her in the decisive May 7 runoff vote. The Kremlin’s interest in the outcome is evident — all the more so given upcoming elections this year in the Netherlands and Germany, where right-wing populist parties are also on the rise.
On Wednesday, France’s foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, came out swinging. In an address to Parliament, he said that France would take “retaliatory measures” if Russia or “any other state” tried to interfere in elections. Mr. Ayrault did not specify what those measures might be, but President François Hollande has called a meeting next week of France’s national defense chiefs to discuss “specific monitoring and protection measures” to guard against foreign interference in the presidential race.