Ukrainian flag on French Covid app ‘is not a cyberattack’

Those using the TousAntiCovid app, which hosts the French vaccine pass, may have noticed a small Ukraine flag appearing on the corner of the screen - but there's no cause for alarm.

The French TousAntiCovid app now features a Ukrainian flag in the top left corner.
The French TousAntiCovid app now features a Ukrainian flag in the top left corner. (Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP)

If you used the TousAntiCovid app on Friday, you might have noticed the small Ukrainian flag that appears on the top left corner of the screen. 

This was not the result of a Russian hack, as some initially feared, but an act of solidarity towards the Ukrainian people – authorised by the French government. 

France's TousAntiCovid app now bears a small Ukrainian flag.

France’s TousAntiCovid app now bears a small Ukrainian flag. Source: The Local

The symbolic decision to add the Ukrainian flag to the TousAntiCovid app, which is used to carry an electronic copy of the vaccine pass, comes after cities around the world illuminated their buildings in blue and yellow to show their support for the Ukrainian people.

Valérie Boyer, a Senator for the centre-right Les Républicains party, was among the many people who initially feared that the appearance of the flag was the result of a malicious cyberattack. 

“A provocation of hackers highlighting the vulnerability of our IT systems and our very expensive consulting firms?” she asked

The office of Cédric O, France’s Digital Communications Minister, has since confirmed that the flag was intended as a “message of support”. It will remain on the pass only on Friday.

It’s not the first time that emojis have been used on TousAntiCovid – the ‘mask face’ emoji often appears to remind French people of the mask rules, while a Christmas tree appeared over the festive period.

Not everyone appreciated it though – “No doubt that sticking the Ukraine flag on the #tousanticovid app will make #Putin tremble,” wrote the below Twitter user.

The Ukrainian flag will be displayed prominently on a number of French monuments over the coming days. 

On Friday evening and over the weekend, the Eiffel tower will be illuminated in the colours of the flag at the request of Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, who is also running for the presidency as the Parti Socialiste candidate in April. 

The Hôtel de Ville in Paris was also lit up in the colours of the flag on Thursday evening. Other town halls in Tours, La Rochelle and elsewhere raised Ukrainian flags in solidarity. 

In the northern French city of Lille, the Kharkov bridge (named after a town in northeastern Ukraine with which Lille is twinned) was rebaptised the Kharkiv bridge, adopting a Ukrainian rather than Russian spelling. 

A Ukrainian flag also hung behind French President Emmanuel Macron as he addressed the nation on Thursday. 

“We will respond without weakness to this act of war, with calm, determination and unity,” he said. 

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France ‘strongly condemns’ Russia’s expulsion of its diplomats

France "strongly condemns" the expulsion of 34 of its diplomats by Russia, the foreign ministry said Wednesday, a tit-for-tat move by Moscow after Paris ordered some Russian staff to leave.

France 'strongly condemns' Russia's expulsion of its diplomats

Saying the step had “no legitimate basis”, the ministry said in a statementthat “the work of the diplomats and staff at (France’s) embassy in Russia… takes place fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations” — whereas Paris expelled the Russian staff in April on suspicion of being spies.

Moscow said Wednesday it was expelling 34 “employees of French diplomatic missions” in a tit-for-tat move following the
expulsion of Russian diplomats from France as part of joint European action over Russia’s campaign in Ukraine.

“Thirty four employees of French diplomatic missions in Russia have been declared persona non grata,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that they have two weeks to leave the country.

Moscow made the announcement after summoning France’s ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, and telling him that the expulsion of 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions was a “provocative and unfounded decision”, the statement

“It has been stressed that this step causes serious damage to Russian-French relations and constructive bilateral cooperation,” the foreign ministry said.

French President Emmanuel Macron initially led diplomatic outreach to the Kremlin over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine but his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin have eventually tapered off and overt French military
support to Ukraine has increased in recent months.