Defamation of Paris mayoral candidate Benjamin Griveaux, who was standing for the French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche! party, is a planned action to eliminate the French politician affiliated with President Macron, who was critical of Russia and had good chances in big politics.
So, in February 2019, in an interview with Parisien, Griveaux focused on the threat of Russia’s interference that, in his opinion, was trying to place pressure on May 2020 European elections and condemned the fake news campaigns. Moreover, Griveaux hampered Russian propaganda media’s participation at the Elysee Palace events and had information that the presidential candidates François Fillon and Marine Le Pen were backed by Russian state media.
Griveaux’s defamation will be used later to attack Macron himself. Russia surrounds Macron with threats, aimed to sell him on a pro-Russian policy and lift European sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Petr Pavlensky, a Russian action artist, is the key figure in Griveaux’s discrediting action. Pavlensky did not perform opposition political activities when he lived in Russia.
He came into the spotlight in Russia for actionism in the form of a series of shocking performances, most of which were associated with causing physical damage to himself.
Psychiatric examinations showed Pavlensky’s sanity. His psychological portrait indicates an obvious hysterical personality with masochistic type elements, which explains his actions. Boundless egocentrism, an insatiable thirst for constant attention to himself, admiration, surprise, reverence, sympathy are present in him. His oppositionism is the result of hysteroid behavior, not personal political convictions.
In 2015, in the presence of journalists, he set the doors of the FSB building in Moscow on fire, calling this action “Threat”. However, despite similar cases are usually qualified as terrorism and extremism, Pavlensky was convicted on “vandalism”, sentenced to a fine of 500 thousand rubles and released in the courthouse. Moreover, he never paid the fine, which did not prevent him from leaving Russia subsequently. In 2017, a criminal case was opened against Pavlensky for sexual assault against the actress from Moscow theatre “Teatr.doc” Anastasia Slonina. Formally, it became an excuse for his emigration to France. Thus, Pavlensky did not perform political activities threatening his life in Russia, and therefore the Slonina case could be a planned action to take Pavlensky away to France.
His psychological portrait speaks for his high responsiveness to suggestion. The facts as a whole imply that Pavlensky is highly probable to be used by the Russian special services in an unwitting fashion.
On arriving to France, Pavlensky set the doors of the Bank of France on fire, particularly repeating his action in Moscow in 2015. In such a way Pavlensky entered the French media scene.
Pavlensky is backed by the Russian gallerist Marat Gelman. In 2004, Marat Gelman took part in the events at the Maidan in Ukraine with pro-Russian forces. He was the author of the visual Ukraine’s division into parts, thus laying the foundation for the concept of pro-Russian separatism. In the media, Gelman belongs to the FSB influence group. He might be actual Pavlensky’s handler.
In early February 2020, Juan Branco, a lawyer, turned to several bloggers with a proposal to post a video of a compromising (sexual) nature with Benjamin Griveaux. After their refusal, Pavlensky himself made a similar proposal, first to Mediapart (February 10 and 11), and then to the Libération newspaper (February 13). As a result, the video was published on February 12 at pornopolitique.com. According to Whois service, the site’s domain name was registered on November 23, 2019 by a registrar in Canada. Obviously, the resource was originally prepared for this action: before that, it published an interview with the ex-deputy of the Italian parliament, Cicciolina, and the site was closed after the video with Griveaux appeared. Consequently, it is likely that in November last year, the initiators of the action already had Griveaux’s compromising video.
Thus, a day after video’s release, Pavlensky attempted to post it on a more influential site. This fact indicates the existing problems with the video’s placement itself, the search for a site for placement and doubts about the status of pornopolitique.com, which might not be accepted by the public.
On February 14, Pavlensky appeared on BFMTV, where he spoke extremely poor French. At the same time, the annotation to the video on pornopolitique.com contains the text written by the author with a good knowledge of French.Thus, there is no doubt that several people prepared the dirt on Griveaux.
Laurent Alexandre, a businessman and essayist with his 74,000 followers on Twitter and lot of supporters among far right groups, was the first in the messaging chain. He deleted his post in a while. He is close to the National Front of Marine le Pen. In the early 2010s, he published several literary works of a racist narrative.
The member of the French National Assembly, 36-year-old Joachim Son-Forget, was the main element to repost the dirt, publishing a link to his Twitter material with 61 thousand followers the next day.
In February 2018, Son-Forget, still a representative of the Macron party, was the first party member to be interviewed by Sputnik, the Russian propaganda media, thereby offsetting Macron’s previous statements that RT Sputnik is an instrument of Russia’s geopolitical influence.
In December 2018, Son-Forget was expelled from Macron’s La République En Marche! partyfor numerous insulting statements on social networks. Then he joined the centrist faction, from where he was also expelled in December 2019 after publishing his selfie with Marion Maréchal, Marine Le Pen’s niece.
Son-Forget is a friend of Macron’s former security guard Benalla who, while working at the Elysee, entered into contracts with Russian billionaire Iskander Makhmudov – a person affiliated with Russian military intelligence since the mid-80s on tasks in Libya and Iraq.
On Facebook, Son-Forget is subscribed to Business Club France Russia, which is typical for lobbyists of Russian business in the EU countries.
He is also subscribed to several pages related to firearms, which is similar to Maria Butina’s case in the USA, although his fascination with long range shooting is known.
Benalla and Son-Forget are associated with ultra-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Mélenchon visited the USSR and Russia three times: twice in the 1980s and once in May 2018 (when he met with Sergei Udaltsov, officials from the State Duma, the Federation Council, the RF MFA and also participated in the so-called immortal regiment march (Putin’s ideological and propaganda military project) in Moscow). Mélenchon attacked Macron for his anti-Russian stance and called for lifting sanction pressure from Russia. IGTDS sources in European diplomatic circles call Mélenchon a politician completely controlled by Moscow, rather modestly funded at the same time. . Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is co-author of a report on France’s strategy on seas and oceans.
Alexandra de Taddeo, born in Metz in 1989, is a source of the video leak with Griveaux’s participation. The results of the analysis and situation modelling exclude the possibility the message was intercepted by the third-party. De Taddeo was obviously the video recipient through the messenger back in 2018, and the video was saved. Alexandra is associated with Pavlensky and Branco, as evidenced by the photos.
In the summer of 2019, Alexandra de Taddeo and Petr Pavlensky sent a letter of support to Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, and received a response. Alexandra calls Pavlovsky “my beloved” in her tweet. According to unverified information, Pavlensky lived with de Taddeo, despite the fact that he left Russia with his wife and two children. However, during the investigation into the Slonina case, the press reported free sex views and Pavlensky’s taste for threesome.
Consequently, Pavlensky could possibly use de Taddeo to incriminate French politicians.
There are reasonable doubts that the dirt on Griveaux is the only one at Pavlensky-Taddeo’s disposal. The fact that the video was released a year after its receipt indicates that the group was probably looking to release similar materials or correspondence soon.
Attempts to fabricate sexual dirt are the hallmark of Russian special services in recent years, that previously attempted similar actions in other countries, particularly in Ukraine.
On February 16,2020 French MPs from the ruling party, Joachim Son-Forget and Bruno Ketel, demanded that Petr Pavlensky was sent back to Russia. This position radically differs from the actual support that Son-Forget, for example, provided Pavlensky in spreading dirt on Griveaux.
However, this statement is obviously related to an attempt to evade responsibility for complicity in the crime provided for in Article 226-2-1 of the Criminal Code of the French Republic, as well as revealing of the action’s direct paymaster – the Russian Federation.
The operation to discredit Griveaux is Russia’s showy action based on the blind use of several public opinion leaders to create a reposting chain. One way or another, all its participants have ties with Russia, but they have strong motivation to confront President Macron as well. However, the distribution channels inquiry indicates that it’s impossible to get ahead with the operation not highlighting the information as appropriate and not coordinating its distribution.