Russian Matryoshka strikes the media ahead of the Paris Olympics

French authorities have identified pro-Russian disinformation targeting French speakers worldwide.

French General Secretariat of Defence and Nation Security (SGDSN) and its anti-disinformation agency Viginum have identified a pro-Russian misinformation campaign named Matryoshka.

According to the authorities, the campaign's objective is most likely to discredit the media, public figures, and fact-checking units while promoting content serving Russian interests.

Matryoshka campaign
origin of Matryoshka campaign targets

As identified in the report released on June 10th, the campaign’s strategy involves the coordinated spread of false information, such as reports, graffiti, and memes, targeting the comment sections of media outlets, public figures, and fact-checking organizations in over sixty countries.

The false content often impersonates North American or European personalities and media, including French sources.

Matryoshka operators also directly contact their targets on X (formerly Twitter) and through messages, asking them to investigate the false content.

Matryoshka campaign
Publications with fake Ukrainian president graffiti and news reports criticizing Ukrainian refugees

While it primarily spreads and amplifies anti-Ukrainian narratives, it also targets French policies supporting Ukraine, specific French political figures, and the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Reportedly, the campaign has been active since September 2023, and it targets mainly French speakers. The campaign is still active.

“Matryoshka” is a Russian term for nesting dolls – a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another – which is a strong symbol of Russian culture.

Matryoshka campaign
Publications targeting the Paris Olympics 2024