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Russian MPs denounce the alleged presence of French “mercenaries” in Ukraine

Russian MPs voted on Wednesday for a resolution denouncing the alleged presence of French “mercenaries” fighting for Kiev in Ukraine. Paris rejected this accusation and sees it as a new disinformation campaign by the Kremlin.

“It is regrettable that the French authorities, who were once with our country in Europe on the initiative of politico-military détente, are prolonging the torments of the Nazi regime in Kiev with their actions,” says this resolution addressed to the French government National Assembly and published on the website of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.

On January 17, the Russian army claimed to have destroyed a building housing “mercenaries, most of whom were French citizens,” in Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine. Sixty fighters were “eliminated” and twenty were injured, Moscow assured.

A pro-Russian French association, SOS Donbass, then published on Monday a list of names of thirteen “French mercenaries” who were in Kharkiv at the time of the attack. Another list of thirty names is circulating on Telegram.

As soon as the Russian army made its announcement, the French Foreign Ministry denied and condemned “a new gross Russian manipulation” and assured that France “has no “mercenaries”, neither in Ukraine nor elsewhere”.

In return, the French ambassador in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday to be criticized for “Paris's increasing involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.”

These accusations of “mercenaryism” against France come as Paris has increased its promises of arms sales to Ukraine in recent weeks and is preparing to sign a security deal with Kiev.

According to a French diplomatic source, some of the identities mentioned on these lists are also false. And doubts remain about the fact that French people died in this Russian attack.

From the first months, the conflict in Ukraine attracted foreign volunteers who fought alongside Kiev soldiers. At the end of December 2023, a security source estimated the number of French fighters in Ukraine at “a few dozen, less than 50,” “all from the extreme right or ultra-right.”