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Olympics-Macron says he has no doubt Russia will target Paris Olympics

PARIS (Reuters) -French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that he had no doubt Russia would malevolently target the Paris Olympics this summer, in comments that underline the fraught geopolitical backdrop to the games.

"I have no doubt whatsoever, including in terms of information," Macron said in response to a reporter's question about whether he thought that Russia would try to target the Olympics.

The Russian embassy in Paris did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Macron's remarks, delivered at an event in Paris for the inauguration of the new Olympics aquatic centre, represent his most explicit acknowledgment to date of foreign threats to the security or smooth running of the games.

The globally anticipated event takes place amid a complex global context, with Russia's war in Ukraine and Israel's conflict with Hamas in Gaza complicating efforts to safeguard the Olympics.

A Macron aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to say whether the president was referring to specific intelligence signalling a future Russian interference attempt.

Instead, she said: "There is a hardening from Russia, which we have been seeing for several months."

Macron has recently adopted a tougher stance against Russia, vowing that Moscow must be defeated, and has not ruled out that European troops may one day go to Ukraine, although he has made clear that France has no intention of instigating hostilities against Russia.

His government has also adopted a tougher line against alleged Russian disinformation efforts across Europe.

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said France will propose EU-wide level sanctions on those behind spreading disinformation amid what Paris sees as growing efforts by Russia to destabilise the bloc.

RUSSIA AND THE IOC

Relations between Russia and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have worsened in the run-up to the Paris Olympics, where Russian and Belarusian athletes will compete as neutrals, without their flags and anthems, and be excluded from the opening parade.

They were initially banned from competing internationally following Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Russia said last year it planned to relaunch a multi-sport 'Friendship Games' in 2024, 40 years after its first edition, a move the IOC has criticised as a "political action".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this week that the IOC's attitude to Russia's plans to host international sports events was "unacceptable" and the IOC was damaging the Olympic movement by refusing to dissociate itself from politics.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten, writing by GV De Clercq and Gabriel Stargardter, editing by Inti Landauro, Richard Lough, Alexandra Hudson)