Tuesday

18th Sep 2018

'Mr Putin steps into French elections'

  • Le Pen with Putin on Friday (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Vladimir Putin has treated Marine Le Pen as if she was already the next president of France, a month before French people vote.

The Russian leader met the French anti-EU and far-right politician in the Kremlin on Friday (24 March), an honour that is normally reserved for foreign heads of state or government.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Le Pen on VIP tour of the Kremlin prior to Putin meeting (Photo: kremlin.ru)

“Of course I know that the election campaign in France is actively developing,” he said.

“We do not want to influence events in any way, but we reserve the right to talk to representatives of all the country's political forces”, he said.

“I know that you [Le Pen] represent a group of fast-growing European political forces," he added, referring to the increase in support for far-right parties, such as Le Pen’s National Front, in other EU states.

Le Pen, who is polling to win the first round of French presidential elections on 23 April, but to lose the second round on 7 May, mentioned Wednesday’s terrorist atrocity in London to endorse her foreign policy of mending French ties with Russia.

“You know what happened a few days ago in Great Britain. I think it would be helpful to share intelligence between our countries,” she said.

She rejected the idea that Russia’s help in the French vote came with strings attached.

“I’m a totally free woman … I don’t want to be under the yoke of Russia”, she added.

Le Pen has been to Moscow before to talk to MPs, but the Putin meeting was the first of its kind.

The French politician, who has said she would “liberate” France and “restore its sovereignty” by holding a Brexit-type referendum on leaving the EU, also toured a Kremlin exhibition of France’s past imperial glory under King Louis XIV.

Putin, last year, also met with two other pro-Russian French politicians, the centre-right presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, and the centre-right former president Nikolas Sarkozy.

But the scandal-tainted Fillon is now tanking in polls, while Sarkozy dropped out of the elections, leaving Le Pen as Russia’s main potential ally.

Outrageous?

Speaking to EUobserver from Moscow on Friday, Russian opposition leader and former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, said Putin’s treatment of Le Pen represented an “outrageous” interference in French national politics.

“I was surprised by it,” he said.

“Mr Putin has stepped into the French election by inviting her to the Kremlin for the kind of discussion he normally has with foreign leaders,” he said.

A news media channel with close ties to the Kremlin, Life.ru, also contradicted Putin’s claim of non-interference by publishing a story on Friday entitled: Moscow helps Le Pen to win election. It pulled down the text a few minutes after it appeared.

Le Pen’s ties to Russia go beyond political meetings.

The French politician, in 2014, admitted to taking a €9 million loan from a bank with links to the Kremlin.

Her party treasurer, Wallerand de Saint-Just, said on Friday that she was not asking for more Russian money. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, also told the Reuters news agency that Putin and Le Pen did not discuss financial aid.

Kasyanov said those statements should be taken with a pinch of salt, however.

“We could expect such [financial] support again … We can’t believe anyone in this dirty game,” he told EUobserver.

Pro-Le Pen propaganda

Meetings and money aside, Le Pen is also receiving support from Russia’s foreign propaganda machine.

RT Francais, a Kremlin-funded news agency, reported on Friday that Russia could help Le Pen to defend French people against terrorists and migrants.

A pro-Kremlin French-language website also endorsed her anti-immigrant rhetoric by publishing a fake story in February that a north African man had attacked a French priest and that French media had hushed it up.

Other French-language Russian media sources have spread unsubstantiated claims that Le Pen's pro-EU rival, Emmanuel Macron, had had a gay love affair and that he was controlled either by US banks or by Saudi Arabia.

“I expect more anti-Macron campaigns will be coming. The Russian goal is clear - anybody but Macron,” Jakub Janda, an expert on Russian propaganda at the Prague-based think tank, European Values, told EUobserver.

“His [Macron’s] campaign says it faces [Russian] efforts to be hacked. French intelligence services say it loud as well … The only question is how much they [Russian efforts] will be able to damage Macron,” Janda said.

Le Pen, prior to meeting Putin on Friday, went to the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, where she was greeted with blue roses and with kisses and where she said that the EU should drop its sanctions on Russia.

She made the unsubstantiated claim that Ukrainian soldiers were targeting civilians in Russia-occupied parts of eastern Ukraine in what she called “a war crime”.

She said the US had bullied EU states into imposing sanctions on Russia, but that she had her “own viewpoint on Ukraine, [which was] identical to Russia’s”.

Le Pen on war crimes

Putin’s bombing campaign in Syria did target civilians and hospitals in support of its strategic ally, the Syrian regime, in what EU states and the UN have called war crimes.

But Le Pen said Putin had helped Europe by striking Muslim extremists in the country.

"Fundamentalism is slowly retreating, also thanks to the assistance of Russia, which dealt a heavy blow to it by its intervention in Syria," she said.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Thursday also said it was “fictional” to think Russia wanted to interfere in the French vote, before praising Le Pen as a "realist or anti-globalist" figure.

Kasyanov told EUobserver that Putin was helping Le Pen, and others like her, such as the German anti-EU and far-right politician Frauke Petry, who is running against chancellor Angela Merkel in elections in September, in order to “divide and weaken” the EU.

“The French and German elections are two crucial points this year. His foreign policy will be based on this,” Kasyanov said.

A French translation of this article may be found here.

A German translation of this article may be found here.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

Le Pen wants to 'do away' with EU

The far-right presidential candidate said that she would create a "Europe of free nations", while taking France out of Nato command and "tie up" Russia to Europe.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

Poutine s’immisce dans l'élection française

Poutine a traité la leader anti-UE Marine Le Pen, comme si elle avait déjà remporté la présidentielle. "J'ai mon propre point de vue, qui coïncide avec celui de la Russie", a-t-elle affirmé.

Putin mischt sich in französische Wahlen ein

Putin behandelt die französische Anti-EU Präsidentschaftskandidatin Le Pen, als ob sie die Wahlen bereits gewonnen habe. Le Pen: "Meine Sichtweise… ist identisch zur russischen."

News in Brief

  1. EU investigating BMW, Daimler and VW 'collusion'
  2. Spain wants special Gibraltar chapter in Brexit deal
  3. Italy cancels Vienna talks over South Tyrol 'dual citizenship'
  4. Britain will not accept Brexit deal with Irish Sea border
  5. Slovakia seeks witness to journalist killing
  6. Finland's Stubb considers running for EU commission job
  7. Romania ponders anti same-sex marriage referendum
  8. EU lawyers back Slovenia in Croatia border dispute

Opinion

Europe needs more modern leadership

If Europe wants to be a global leader, our political leadership has to change dramatically. Power needs a new face in Europe, and it needs to get legitimacy from the people, argues liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

EUobserved

How radical is Italy's Savona really?

Italy is in a political crisis because president Sergio Mattarella has rejected Paolo Savona as a cabinet member, for his views on the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers
  2. Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal
  3. New book: Why war is coming
  4. EU parliament will not budge on office expenses
  5. Why Orban's project to reshape EU politics will be unsuccessful
  6. 10 years after Lehman Brothers what has changed for EU consumers?
  7. Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president
  8. Is Russia blackmailing the Council of Europe?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us