French bedbug panic 'could have been stoked by Russia'

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
French bedbug panic 'could have been stoked by Russia'
A product used to eradicate bedbugs at a pest control shop in Paris. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

French intelligence services reportedly believe that Russia may have been involved in stoking the panic over bedbugs in France, with numerous fake articles circulating on social media.


Is it possible Russia was involved in increasing panic about the rise of bedbugs in France? That is certainly a possibility, French intelligence sources indicated to the RMC radio station.

Bedbugs have been in the headlines for weeks - both in the French press and in international outlets. Social media users have spread memes, joking about the possibility of a global outbreak as Paris fashion week attendees make their way to London and New York.

Algeria even announced in early October that it would introduce 'preventative measures' to ward off the spread of bedbugs to their country from France on planes and ships.

Despite the bedbug-related hysteria, France's health ministry said it had not seen any evidence of an increase in bedbug reports. Generally, experts point to a global increase in the spread of the blood-sucking insects, likely related to bans on dangerous insecticides, an increase in travel, as well as warming temperatures.

Nevertheless, the French government held a special inter-ministerial meeting on the subject of bedbugs, and politicians called for a national response.

READ MORE: FACTCHECK: Is there really a 'plague' of bedbugs in France?

As for Russian involvement in the bedbug panic, RMC reported that French intelligence sources believed that Russia could have been involved in spreading fear on social media, namely by posting fake news on the subject.

One possible example has been the circulation of two fake articles, spotted by AFP's factchecking body.

The articles were made to look as if they had been published by the French regional news outlet La Montagne - although actually originated elsewhere - and claimed that sanctions against Russia were partially to blame for the bedbug scourge in France.


The fake articles were shared across social media, arguing that Russian chemicals were needed to create insecticides and disinfectants, but with the imports of these products banned due to sanctions, France was left without the means to get rid of the bugs.

La Montagne told AFP Factuel that they had never published such an article, and denounced the fake articles on social media as 'forgery.'

Debunking the main point referenced in the false articles, AFP Factuel pointed out that bedbugs have been present in France long before "heavy international sanctions were taken against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in early 2022."

A fake story ostensible from French newspaper Libération circulated on a Telegram account linked to the Kremlin-linked media outlet, Russia Today. The fake article claimed that Ukrainian refugees were to blame for the spread of bedbugs in France.


This technique of passing off real articles, from credible media sources, with false implications or references, is a known destabilisation technique called 'Operation Doppelganger'. 

In Spring 2023, France's foreign minister, Catherine Colonna reportedly denounced this as a method used by Russia. 

While it remains possible that Russia was involved in stoking panic in France and internationally about the spread of bedbugs - international media and the French press also covered the topic exhaustively. 

RMC added that French intelligence sources do not believe that Russia caused the panic, but they may have simply 'ridden the wave'.


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