On January 16, the Russian Embassy in Spain tweeted a video of protests in Paris, suggesting it showed a crowd of people rallying in opposition to French military support for Ukraine.
The embassy said in a Spanish language caption: “Massive protests in Paris against the shipment of weapons to Ukraine.”
That is false. In fact, the video tweeted by the embassy shows a protest against plans to raise the retirement age in France.
The video displays the logo of the Russian state news agency RT (Russia Today) and the internet address of its Spanish language service Actualidad. It has no narration; original sound, including crowd voices, was replaced with ominous-sounding music.
After showing marchers, the RT video cuts to Florian Philippot, leader of the far-right Party of Patriots, known to organize anti-vaccine, pro-Kremlin and anti-Ukraine rallies.
“France increasingly adopts co-belligerent status. From the moment we send tanks, we can't say we're just defensive. Co-belligerent means a world war,” Philippot says in a closed caption, then the video continues showing demonstrators.
Philippot’s comments on Ukraine have nothing to do with the rally behind him, but RT Actualidad made them appear to be related.
Philippot’s remarks to RT Actualidad came after the French armed forces ministry announced on January 13 that France will be delivering light combat tanks to Ukraine.
According to the military tracking website Oryx, France has been a major source of military support for Ukraine. The aid includes air defense systems, multiple rocket launchers, self-propelled artillery, armored vehicles, anti-tank missiles and mines, radars, engineering equipment, ammunition and intelligence support.
In March, the European Union banned RT and Russian state-owned Sputnik for spreading malicious anti-Ukraine disinformation and propaganda.
In the past, Philippot served as top executive for Macron’s political rival Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist whose presidential campaign in 2020 was financed by a U.S.-sanctioned Russian Defense Ministry contractor, The Wall Street Journal reported. Le Pen’s office said the money, nearly $13 million, was a loan through a Russia-Czech bank and is being repaid.
Twitter users noted that the protesters in the video carried signs about the retirement age, not about military aid to Ukraine.
President Emanuel Macron’s plan to reform the pension system would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030. If adopted by parliament, the changes would start in September.