Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

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.

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

  • 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 billions pose 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.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us