France's "bedbug infestation" was Russian disinformation, says minister

Paris is under siege, but the assailants are not what you'd expect: enter the world of psychological warfare, where bedbugs have become phantom agents in a Russian strategy to ruin the Paris Olympics and make French people dislike Ukrainians.

France has accused the Kremlin of amplifying a bedbug scare to destabilize the country ahead of the 2024 Olympics. According to Reuters, French European Affairs Minister Jean-Noel Barrot claimed that social media accounts linked to Russian "disinformation" efforts significantly exaggerated the bedbug situation last autumn. Barrot said these efforts attempted to falsely associate the spread of bedbugs with the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, creating unnecessary panic and insecurity among the French populace.

"The issue of bedbugs was artificially amplified on social networks by accounts that have been established to be of Russian inspiration or origin," Barrot told TF1 television. "It was very largely amplified by accounts linked to the Kremlin."

The overhyped bedbug infestation led to temporary school closures and inspections of public transportation systems in Paris. Authorities confirmed that there was no sign of an unusual bedbug outbreak, according to Le Monde.

In 2021, France's President, Emmanuel Macron, established an agency called Viginum to detect and combat such disinformation attempts. The service's findings, particularly the identification of a network of Russian-origin websites called "Portal Kombat," revealed a strategy aimed at undermining public support for Ukraine and inciting instability across Europe.