France has summoned its Russian ambassador to a hearing after the official Russian Embassy Twitter account sent a Tweet suggesting that the recent atrocities and attacks on civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, were a “film set”.
Dozens of people have been discovered dead in the town after Russian troops withdrew, along with a mass grave. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has joined widespread condemnation of the actions, calling them not “far short of genocide”.
Europe is discussing the introduction of more sanctions in response, while the US has called the attacks “devastating”.
But Moscow has denied the civilian attacks and called reports “fake news”.
Now, the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has summoned the Russian ambassador to France, Alexeï Mechkov, to a hearing at the Quai d’Orsay, in connection with the tweet from the official Russian Twitter account that read: “Film set, town of Bucha”, with a photo of the town in disarray.
Mr Le Drian wrote: “Faced with the indecency and provocation of the communication from the embassy of Russia in France on the attacks in Bucha, I have decided to summon the Ambassador of Russia to the Quai d’Orsay this morning.
“We will continue to fight against all Russian attempts at information manipulation regarding the war in Ukraine.”
Nous continuerons à lutter contre toutes les manipulations russes de l'information sur la guerre en Ukraine.— Jean-Yves Le Drian (@JY_LeDrian) April 7, 2022
The Russian tweet has since been deleted.
It comes after the Russian ambassador had already suggested that Ukrainians had “staged” bodies they had discovered in the streets.
The attacks in Bucha have now been verified as true by several western news media outlets, including reporters on-site.
Other French ministers, including European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune, have also come out to condemn the tweet and Russia’s stance on the attacks. Mr Beaune wrote: “More than shameful…stop.”
Work Minister Elisabeth Borne and Aurore Bergé, vice-president of the ruling LaREM party in the Assemblée nationale, have also condemned the Tweet, while MEP Valérie Hayer said: “This communication is sickening. Russia will answer [for its role] in these crimes.”
The photo captioned as a “film set” has been verified as having been taken in Bucha, and shows several journalists reporting on the incidents, with disarray behind them including a destroyed street, smoke, and crowds of people on the road.
It is not the first time that the Russian ambassador to France has been summoned in connection with distasteful Tweets.
In March, the Foreign Affairs Ministry condemned “inappropriate” cartoons, including one that showed Europeans licking “Uncle Sam’s” buttocks, with the caption: “The state of European solidarity.”
The ambassador had already recently warned Russians not to visit the town of Deauville in Calvados, “given the security risk” to Russian nationals “after anti-Russian actions” there. In fact, the mayor of the town had projected the Ukrainian flag onto a villa belonging to the Russian state.
The same official Twitter account has also published “a press bulletin” in which it casts doubt on the actions of “valiant Ukrainian defenders” and claims that the document “contains audiovisual proof of these actions by the Ukrainian army and ‘neo-Nazi’ fighters”.
It also makes the inflammatory claim that Russians are protecting children by fighting, whereas Ukrainian fighters are “using children as human shields”.
Bulletin de presse du 2 avril 2022— Russie en France (@AmbRusFrance) April 1, 2022
❗️Suivi des activités de 'vaillants défenseurs' ukrainiens
❗️Ce document contient plusieurs preuves audiovisuelles des actions de l'armée ukrainienne et des combattants néo-nazis.
➡️ https://t.co/ZUr9qx8Rvs pic.twitter.com/gKcIDkb5UD
Several Russian ambassadors across the world have been similarly condemned for comments and tweets that appear to defend President Vladimir Putin’s offensive as a “simple military operation” that is aiming to “keep the peace”.
France has already sent back 35 Russian diplomats who were based in Paris, as their “activities are against our security interests”, the French Foreign Ministry said.