France’s National Front, a far-right party headed by Marine Le Pen, reportedly has applied for a €27 million ($30 million) loan from Russia, the British newspaper, The Times, is reporting.
The loan would be used to help finance National Front campaigns in presidential and parliamentary elections next year, according to the Times article published February 19.
The application comes after allegations the National Front reportedly obtained a €9 million ($11 million) loan in 2014 from a bank linked to the Kremlin, the Times reported.
Le Pen, who will be running for French president in 2017, has been one of Europe’s most prominent defenders of Moscow’s moves in Ukraine. She has attributed Crimea’s annexation by Russia to “major errors” committed by the European Union, and described Ukraine’s Euromaidan protest movement as a “putsch.” She has also endorsed the Kremlin’s territorial claim to the peninsula, saying “Crimea is Russia, as everyone knows. One should not see it otherwise.”
Only a handful of states, and a handful of Western politicians, have recognized Crimea as part of Russia.
In January, reports surfaced that US intelligence officials were looking into Russian efforts to curry influence among politicians and non-governmental activists in Europe. “Right across the EU we are seeing alarming evidence of Russian efforts to unpick the fabric of European unity on a whole range of vital strategic issues,” a senior British government official was quoted as saying by the British newspaper the Telegraph on January 16.
National Front representatives defended the 2014 loan by noting that no French banks were willing to make funds available to the party. “The party is [now] applying to foreign banks … and why not Russian ones,” the party representative was quoted by the Politico news website as saying.