Wednesday

8th Dec 2021

Le Pen borrowed €9mn from Kremlin-linked bank

The far-right French party, Front National (FN), borrowed €9 million from a Russian bank, posing questions over its relationship with the Kremlin.

The loan, by the First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB), was granted in late September, according to a report out on Saturday (22 November) in Mediapart, an online investigative journal.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It notes the FCRB is de facto owned by Roman Popov, a financier with close ties to the Russian political establishment.

Wallerand de Saint-Just, the FN’s treasurer, told Mediapart the loan was organised by Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, an FN euro-deputy.

“We’d been looking for a loan for a long time, notably to finance our election campaigns. Our bank, like many other French and European banks, categorically refused to lend a single centime to the FN or to FN candidates”, he said.

“So Mr Schaffhauser … who has had good relations in Russia for a long time, said: ‘Let me go and see this bank’.”

De Saint-Just denied the FCRB loan amounts to foreign interference in French politics, saying he has never met Popov and has only had contact with the bank’s “technical" staff.

Marine Le Pen, the FN chief and also an MEP, told French daily Le Monde that her party tried to get loans from Asian, Italian, Spanish, and US banks as well as from the Russian lender.

“The first one we managed to get, we signed, and we’re very happy … what’s scandalous is that French banks aren’t lending”, she said.

She dismissed as “ridiculous” the question whether the FCRB millions came with strings attached.

“That kind of insinuation is injurious and outlandish. Just because we got a loan, that’ll determine our international position? We’ve had the same [pro-Russian] line for a long time”, she said.

Le Pen has praised Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine and blamed the West for causing the crisis.

Her deputies vote against Russia-critical resolutions in the EU parliament.

Schaffhauser was also one of a handful of MEPs who went to monitor "elections" in the Russia-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk “republics” in east Ukraine on 2 November.

Aymeric Chauprade, Le Pen’s advisor on foreign policy, went to monitor the Crimea "referendum" on independence in March.

Le Monde reported earlier this year that Chauprade also met with Kremlin envoys in Vienna in May, along with other far-right European politicians, to discuss how to combat “European liberalism and homosexuality”.

The FN is currently polling ahead of both the centre-left and centre-right Socialist and UMP parties in France.

Meanwhile, Moscow's links to the far right are not limited to France.

Hungarian authorities have asked the EU parliament to lift the immunity of Bela Kovacs, an MEP from the far-right Jobbik party, after accusing him of taking money from Russian intelligence services.

Kovacs, who denies the allegations, like Chauprade monitored the Crimea "referendum".

Tatjana Zdanoka, a Latvian MEP from the pro-Russian Latvijas Krievu savieniba party, who also went to observe the Crimea poll, is under a similar investigation at home.

EU and UN reject 'farcical' east Ukraine votes

The EU, the UN, and Nato have rejected the outcome of “so-called elections” in east Ukraine, but Russia and a handful of fringe MEPs gave their stamp of approval.

Farage and Le Pen unite on Russia report

Britain’s Ukip and France’s National Front have teamed up with other anti-EU parties to vote against a Russia-critical resolution at the EU parliament.

News in Brief

  1. EU agrees to sanction Russian mercenaries
  2. Germany asks Iran for realistic nuclear proposals
  3. US to send troops to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine
  4. Will EU follow US on China Olympics boycott?
  5. EU flight passengers dropped 73% in 2020
  6. EU 'biggest vaccine-donor in world', von der Leyen announces
  7. Majority of EU citizens worried about internet's impact
  8. Redesigned euro banknotes coming from 2024

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Latest News

  1. Denmark and Hungary oppose EU rules on minimum wages
  2. Slovenian corruption estimated at 13.5% of GDP
  3. Lithuania seeks EU protection from Chinese bullying
  4. Using Istanbul Convention to stop online abuse of women
  5. EU spends record €198bn on defence in 2020
  6. EU Parliament demands justice after 'anti-vax' attack on MEP
  7. Kaczyński and Le Pen make friends at anti-EU 'summit'
  8. Croat police kept handwritten logbook of likely pushbacks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us