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France says Russia tried to spy on satellite

11th September 2018 - 13:49 GMT | by ​Agence France-Presse in Toulouse

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A Russian satellite attempted in 2017 to spy on a satellite providing secure communications for the French military, Defence Minister Florence Parly said on 7 September.

The Athena-Fidus satellite, operated jointly with Italy, was approached ‘a bit too closely’ by Russia's Luch-Olymp craft, known for its advanced listening capacity, Parly said at France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) in Toulouse, southern France.

She added: ‘It got so close that we might have imagined it was trying to intercept our communications. Trying to listen to your neighbours is not only unfriendly. It's an act of espionage.’

Parly said officials took the ‘appropriate measures’ and continued to monitor the satellite after it left, and observed it manoeuvring near other targets as well, she said.

In August 2018, Washington accused Moscow of developing anti-satellite weapons and cited ‘very abnormal behaviour’ of a ‘space object’ deployed by Russia in October 2017.

Parly said: ‘We are well aware that other major players in space are deploying intriguing objects into orbit, experimenting with potential offensive capabilities, conducting manoeuvres which leave no doubt as to their aggressive intent.’

French President Emmanuel Macron plans to lay out 2019 plans for a ‘space defence strategy’ for France, with an advisory committee expected to make proposals by November 2018.

Parly said: ‘We're at risk, our communications, our military manoeuvres and our daily operations are at risk if we don't react.’

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