French authorities have uncovered a website for a fake recruitment drive purportedly seeking French volunteers to fight for Ukraine against the Russian invasion, the defence ministry said Thursday.

The site has now been taken down by French services, a government source, who asked not to be named, told AFP without elaborating.

The site had said that 200,000 French people were invited to "enlist in Ukraine", with immigrants given priority.

A link to the site -- that resembled the French army's genuine recruitment portal -- had been posted on X, formerly Twitter, the French defence ministry said.

"The site is a fake government site," the ministry said, also on X, "and has been reposted by malevolent accounts as part of a disinformation campaign".

The ministry did not say who they thought might be responsible. But a source close to the government told AFP initial evidence pointed to communications operations linked to Russian mercenary group Wagner.

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"The accounts used and the technical data behind them, these are the people we know", the source said.

"These people are still there and remain very focused on Ukraine. The subject of the French army is something that annoys them a lot."

Separately, a government official speaking on condition of anonymity said the site bore "the hallmarks of a Russian or pro-Russian effort as part of a disinformation campaign claiming that the French army is preparing to send troops to Ukraine".

- Disinformation accusations -

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In response to Russia's armed aggression Ukraine, once the world's breadbasket, has had to focus more on reinforcing it military arsenal along with most countries in the West.

French President Emmanuel Macron angered the Russian leadership last month by hardening his tone on the conflict sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In recent weeks he has refused to rule out sending ground troops and insisted that Europe has to do all that is necessary for a Russian defeat.

France has already accused Russia of waging a disinformation campaign against it.

The official told AFP that similar recent examples of disinformation posts included pictures of French army convoys wrongly presented as moving towards the Ukrainian border.

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The fake website invited potential recruits to contact "unit commander Paul" for information about joining.

The defence ministry and government cyber units are investigating, ministry staff told AFP.

The French government has recently stepped up efforts to denounce and fight what it says are Russian disinformation and destabilisation campaigns aimed at undermining French public support for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

"Russia is asserting itself as the most aggressive player in the information field," Marc-Antoine Brillant, the head of Viginum, an agency mandated to detect digital disinformation campaigns, said in an interview with French daily Le Figaro.

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