Monday

26th Jun 2017

Le Pen wanted millions more from Russia

  • Le Pen (r) caused a stir last week by meeting Putin at the Kremlin (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Revelations that Marine Le Pen tried to borrow a further €3 million from Russia pose questions on Kremlin interference in the French election.

Mediapart, a French investigative website, revealed on Friday (31 March) that Le Pen, the French anti-EU and far-right candidate, agreed to borrow the funds in order to finance her campaign.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Putin at the meeting in Arkhangelsk on Thursday (Photo: kremlin.ru)

The website published an internal document of her National Front party, showing that she and party chiefs on 15 June last year decided to borrow €3 million from Strategy Bank in Russia at an interest rate of 6 percent per year to be repaid in 2018.

It said the “purpose of the borrowed money” was “financing the electoral campaign”.

Mediapart also published a second National Front document, which said the funds were to be used for election “expenses” and were to be wired to a bank account opened in Le Pen’s name.

Le Pen, whose surprise meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week caused a stir, declined to comment.

The party’s treasurer, Wallerand de Saint-Just, who told press last week that Le Pen was not asking Putin for more money, told Mediapart that the €3 million loan was “just a project, which did not have any follow-up”.

Mediapart did not say whether the National Front received the money and did not give information about Strategy Bank.

The revelations come after Le Pen and her father admitted last year to having previously borrowed €11 million from different Russian sources.

Fears of Russian election-meddling in Europe were heightened after Moscow was accused of having swayed the outcome of the US vote via hacking and disinformation.

Le Pen is neck-and-neck in polls with the centrist, pro-EU candidate Emmanuel Macron for the first round of the presidential vote on 23 April.

He has been targeted by Russian hackers and accused of being secretly gay, an agent of US banks, and of being an agent of Saudi Arabia in French-language Russian media.

Speaking to EUobserver in an interview on Thursday, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian former oil chief who was jailed after trying to enter politics, said Putin saw Le Pen as a “realistic chance to destroy the EU”.

Even if the EU could politically survive France leaving the bloc, as Le Pen wants it to, Khodorkovsky added that a French EU exit would, for Putin, mean that “the EU would have no more nuclear weapons”.

France and the UK, the latter of which started EU exit talks this week, are the only nuclear-armed EU countries.

Frans Timmermans, the Dutch EU commissioner, also told the Spanish parliament on Thursday that Putin was using far-right parties to harm the EU.

“The reason why Putin supports the extreme right in Europe is because it weakens us and divides us,” he said.

“A divided Europe means that Putin is the boss,” he added.

Putin told press in Moscow that his meeting with Le Pen was not an attempt to interfere in France.

He also denied US election-meddling at a meeting with the Finnish and Icelandic presidents in Russia on Thursday.

Putin said that US intelligence services made the accusation for the sake domestic politics.

“So what do we want to achieve? To terminate our diplomatic relations completely? To drive the situation to the level that it was at in the 1960s during the Cuban missile crisis? And where next?” he said at the meeting in Arkhangelsk, in north-west Russia.

Sauli Niinisto, the Finnish president, said it was wrong to think that global tension was increasing.

“Very many of my European Union colleagues [are] visiting Moscow ... the dialogue is increasing, and that’s not tension, that’s getting rid of tensions”, he said.

Niinisto offered to convene a summit of Arctic leaders at which Putin could meet the new US president, Donald Trump, for the first time in a bid to lower tensions further.

The Danish and Norwegian foreign ministers also participated in the Arkhangelsk meeting.

A French translation of this article may be found here.

A German translation of this article may be found here.

'Mr Putin steps into French elections'

Putin treated France's anti-EU firebrand, Le Pen, as if she had already won the elections. "I have my own viewpoint ... identical to Russia's", she said.

Le Pen a cherché quelques millions russes de plus

Des révélations selon lesquelles la candidate d'extrême droite a tenté d'emprunter 3 millions d'euros supplémentaires à la Russie posent des questions sur l'ingérence du Kremlin dans l'élection présidentielle française.

Interview

Khodorkovsky: Putin's betting on Le Pen

Russia will try to help Le Pen win the French election the same way it helped Trump in the US, Khodorkovsky, a Kremlin critic, has said.

EU wary of additional Russia sanctions

US plans to block investments in Russia’s oil and gas sectors, but these would be difficult for the EU to follow, says the EU’s US envoy.

Investigation

Illicit Russian money poses threat to EU democracy

It cost €11 million to help Le Pen campaign in elections, but it cost the Russian mafia less than €100,000 to hire a former UK attorney general to lobby against EU sanctions.

Schulz fails to beat Merkel in German home state

Former EU parliament leader, Martin Schulz, says the defeat of his social-democrats in North Rhine-Westphalia is "difficult". The elections showed that a "Schulz effect" does not (yet) exist.

News in Brief

  1. Seasoned finance minister takes over Dutch coalition talks
  2. British PM closes government deal with Northern Irish party
  3. Merkel on collision course with US at G20 summit
  4. Schulz outlines German election strategy, hits out at Merkel
  5. Berlusconi's party sees comeback in Italian local votes
  6. Low turnout in Albanian election set to mandate EU future
  7. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  8. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan Statin Therapy Interfere With a Physically Active Lifestyle?
  3. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  4. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  5. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  6. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  7. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  8. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  9. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  10. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  11. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  12. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?