Russia recruits bedbugs in hybrid war on the West security bosses claim

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    Russia recruited an invading army of bedbugs to join its war on the West, according to intelligence experts.

    Vladimir Putin's propaganda goons managed to weaponise the itchy critters by churning out fake news about their march across Europe. Spooks reckon the Russian despot’s henchmen were behind bogus articles about the bad-boy bugs in a bid to amplify fears and damage France's reputation before it stages next year's (2024) Olympics.

    And they’re using fake news to claim their Ukrainian enemies are fuelling a bedbug surge when fleeing the war-torn country. Experts have admitted global warming and the revival of international travel following lockdown caused an uptick in the bloodsucking insects.

    READ MORE: Putin's allies rush to form 'knightly round table' to rule Russia if despot dies

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    But some French pest controllers claim the outbreak has been blown out of proportion. French intelligence experts have said they are taking seriously the idea that Russia fanned the panic as part of its hybrid war on the West.

    Reports of bedbugs infesting homes and migrating to metros and cinemas have filled the headlines across France. Brit cross-Channel travel operators have been on alert to stop the pests invading the UK, while Algeria announced it was introducing preventative measures to stop the critters heading there on planes and ships from France.

    A test tube full of bugs was taken into the French parliament by an MP raising concern about the wave of panic that has seized the country.

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    The government staged an emergency meeting earlier this month and transport minister Clément Beaune pledged to send sniffer dogs into trains to check for their presence. But French intelligence agents say they strongly suspect Russia of amplifying fears by spreading so-called doppelganger articles on social media that appear to come from respected news outlets but are bogus.

    Agence France Presse's fact-checking body identified two – both of which are pro-Russian. The first – supposedly from regional newspaper La Montagne – claimed insecticides used to kill the pests had fallen foul of a ban on Russian chemicals brought in following its Ukraine invasion last year (2022).

    But La Montagne said it had never published the article which was a forgery. Fact-checkers said bedbugs were present in France long before heavy international sanctions were taken against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

    More bogus news purporting to come from national title Libération blamed Ukrainian refugees for the bedbug surge. It was posted on a Telegram account linked to Kremlin-owned news outlet Russia Today.

    A similar fake piece was attributed to respected French newspaper Le Figaro. French foreign minister Catherine Colonna has denounced such "doppelganger" articles – often anti-Ukrainian – churned out by Russian troll factories as "unworthy of a country with a UN security council seat."

    Some 355 outlets had been "cloned" in this way and the foreign ministry’s own website was also targeted. Earlier this month MP Mathilde Panot, parliamentary leader of the France Unbowed party, said the number of bedbug infestations across the country had risen from 200,000 in 2017 to 1.2 million last year (2022).

    But handlers of two sniffer dogs trained to pinpoint the pests via their smell said there had been no explosion in cases in Paris. Asked if the capital was besieged Aldo Massaglia, who co-runs the Doggybug anti-pest company, said: "Frankly no.

    "We’ve been in the business for more than a decade and we’ve always been called to hotels, schools and cinemas. People need to calm down or they’ll end up putting us back in lockdown at this rate.

    "It’s as if someone was seeking to damage the reputation of the country before the Olympics."

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    • Vladimir Putin
    • Russia
    • Bedbugs

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