Russia is suspected of being involved in the Eiffel Tower coffin mystery

French intelligence officials believe Russia is behind the placement of five coffins draped in the French flag and with the words “French soldiers of Ukraine” placed near the Eiffel Tower.

Three men were seen arriving in a truck at around 09:00 (07:00 GMT) on Saturday. The coffins they left behind were later discovered to contain sacks of plaster.

Police quickly arrested the driver, who claimed he had been paid 40 euros (£34) by two other people to transport the coffin. He himself had just arrived in Paris the day before from Bulgaria.

Police later arrested two others at Bercy bus station in central Paris, where they were allegedly planning to board a bus to Berlin.

According to French media, they told police they were paid 400 euros to send the coffin.

Police said the driver was Bulgarian and the other two were Ukrainian and German.

They were brought before a judge on Sunday, ahead of the scheduled opening of a judicial investigation for “premeditated violence,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Officials said investigations were underway “to see whether this activity was organized from abroad”.

The episode recalls two recent incidents in which French police believe Russian agents may have been involved. Both appear to be trying to manipulate public opinion.

In October – not long after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking hundreds of hostages – Stars of David reminiscent of the Israeli flag appeared engraved on many walls in Paris.

A Moldovan couple have been arrested and French officials believe they were paid by Russian intelligence.

Last month, red hands were painted on a Holocaust memorial in Paris and police believe the perpetrators have fled abroad.

According to Le Monde newspaper, citing a source in the investigation, one of the individuals arrested on Saturday was in contact by phone with a Bulgarian suspect wanted for the red-handed incident. Le Monde named this suspect as Georgi F.

Moscow reacted angrily last month to President Emmanuel Macron’s repeated refusal to rule out sending troops to Ukraine.

Last week, Ukrainian officials confirmed that discussions had been held about sending French military instructors to Ukraine.

Investigators say this could set the scene for the coffin case, while Russian intelligence is seeking to demonstrate that there is widespread opposition to France’s deeper involvement in the Ukraine war.

In both Star of David and Red-Handed Matters, the teams included a photographer whose photos later appeared on Internet sites linked to Russian propaganda.

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