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Suspected vandals of Paris Holocaust memorial traced back to Bulgaria

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Three people suspected of vandalizing the Holocaust memorial in Paris have been traced back to Bulgaria, the Paris public prosecutor’s office said. Some media suspect Russian involvement.

On the night of May 13, some 35 graffiti images of red hands were daubed on the Paris memorial, drawing widespread condemnation amid a surge of hate crimes in France since the start of the war in Gaza last October.

In a written response to POLITICO, the prosecutor’s office said three suspects had been spotted by surveillance cameras moving from the memorial to a hotel in the east of Paris, before taking a bus toward Belgium. “The investigations also established that the reservations had been made from Bulgaria,” the office added.

Reports from the Le Canard Enchaîné satirical weekly and FranceInfo public radio said investigators were following up on a possible “Russian destabilization operation,” and had determined that the individuals responsible for the graffiti were from Bulgaria.

In November a Moldovan couple was arrested on suspicion of drawing some 250 blue Stars of David across Paris, stoking fears of antisemitism. The AFP and Le Monde media outlets reported in February that the operation had been “commissioned by Russian security services.”

The events have fueled concern regarding Russian interference in French politics and society. Two weeks before the May 13 acts of vandalism, students protesting Israel’s war in Gaza had painted their hands red. Some media tied the red hand symbol to the 2000 Ramallah lynching of two Israel Defense Forces reservists, but the protesters denied any link.

A French intelligence official told POLITICO that “foreign players” see ongoing public debates in France as “a way of exploiting a weakness,” adding that “Franco-French issues” can be used by “threat actors” to push for their own “narrative.”

Judith Chetrit contributed to this report.

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