Documents leaked by a French investigative website reveal that Marine Le Pen’s National Front party sought a €3 million loan from a Russian bank last year, raising further questions about the far-right presidential candidate’s ties to Moscow. In the documents leaked by Mediapart it says the loan was for the purpose of financing the electoral campaign but gave no indication as to whether the loan was granted. Le Pen previously admitted that her party had received an €11 million loan from a different Russian bank in 2016.
The revelations of the loan application come one week after Marine Le Pen travelled to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin amid accusations that Russia is trying to influence the outcome of the French elections in Le Pen’s favour. The National Front candidate, who has praised Putin’s leadership, is seen as Moscow’s preferred victor in the elections because of her desire to pull France out of the European Union, a move that would likely lead to the breakup of the bloc.
Meanwhile, Le Pen’s strongest opponent in the election, the centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, has alleged that his campaign has been disrupted by Russian hackers and smear stories in Russian state-backed media. Macron, who his strongly pro-EU, has said that his party’s website has been hit by thousands of cyber attacks launched by hackers with Ukrainian IP addresses.
In February, the state-funded Russian news website Sputnik published an interview with Nicolas Dhuicq, a member of parliament for France’s Republicans party in which Dhuicq called Macron ‘an agent of the big American banking system’ and said that he is supported by a ‘very wealth gay lobby’. The latter remark refers to rumours that Macron, who is married, is in a secret gay relationship with the president of France Radio Mathieu Gallet. Macron has denied the rumours.
The Republicans’ candidate François Fillon has also been criticised for his close relationship with Moscow following the revelation that he was paid €50,000 to facilitate a meeting between Vladimir Putin and a billionaire Lebanese oil tycoon. Fillon, whose poll numbers have plummeted amid another scandal surrounding payment to his wife and children of almost €1 million euro for parliamentary work that they never carried out, is expected to be knocked out of the race in the first round of the vote. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are expected to progress to the next round where polls indicate that Le Pen will be defeated by Macron.