Marine Le Pen has been a declared admirer of the president of Russia, although since last February 24 Moscow began the invasion of Ukraine, the far right has tried to disguise the links between the two. Still, his sympathies with Russian President Vladimir Putin seem not to have taken their electoral toll despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Le Pen will face current French President Emmanuel Macron again in the second round of the presidential election. The leader of the National Regrouping party has surpassed herself in percentage of votes compared to the results of the first round of 2017 (23.4% in 2022, compared to 22.07% in 2017).
This relationship between Le Pen and Putin dates back to the year 2014when the candidate of what was then called the National Front (a party founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen) had to resort to a Russian bank linked to the Kremlin to finance his campaign for the municipal elections. Specifically, the banking entity First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB) -then headquartered in Moscow and now closed- contributed 9 million euros to the far-right formation.
After receiving this financing, that year -in the month of March- the Russian Federation signed a treaty by which unilaterally annexed the peninsula of crimea -territory that belonged to Ukraine-. The international community – including the European Union – did not recognize the union and imposed sanctions on Russia.
Meeting with Putin
However, Le Pen did support annexation of Crimea and stated that he “absolutely disagrees that it was an illegal annexation”. “A referendum was held and the residents of Crimea chose to rejoin Russia“, the extreme rightist argued in an interview.
Several years later, in 2017Le Pen traveled to Moscow to meet with Putin in the Kremlin in the midst of his campaign for the French presidential elections that year. In that meeting with Putin – one of the few world leaders who received her, along with the presidents of Lebanon and Chad – Le Pen assured that “in recent years a new world has emerged.” “It is the world of vladimir putinthe world of Donald Trump in the United States, that of [Narendra] Modi in India,” he said.
Likewise, at the meeting, in which several photos between the two were made public, Le Pen reiterated her annexation support to Crimea and showed his opposition to measures against Russia imposed by the European Union. In fact, he told the Russian president that he would “consider lift sanctions fairly quickly” if she were elected president in France. After several pro-Russian statements regarding Crimea, Ukraine announced that would ban Le Pen from entering in the country.
Changes after the war in Ukraine
However, the tables have turned with the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February and Le Pen has tried to hide all these links. In fact, she got to remove brochures from the campaign to the French presidential elections because a photo of him with Putintaken at their meeting in the Kremlin in 2017.
In this sense, with the war in Ukraine, the far-right has defended a “moderate” position in the conflict and, although he assured that in the current war crisis “it is not all black and white”, he added that his intention has always been condemn the invasion of Ukraine “in the clearest possible way”, since it is an armed aggression “inadmissible“.
Although this time it has been shown in favor of sanctions imposed on Russia, Le Pen has positioned herself against an embargo on raw materialssince he considers that it would have “dire consequences for the French and for the world”.
Le Pen’s turn
Although he has wanted to distance himself from Russia in the war, Le Pen has also expressed that in order to obtain a de-escalation in the war conflict, Ukraine must make concessions to the demands demanded by Moscow, as resign to enter the NATO.
Likewise, the far-right candidate has also changed her position regarding the arrival of refugees. Specifically, after taking Afghanistan by the Taliban and the flight of many people from the country, Le Pen proposed creating cities of asylum in neighboring countries, since he considered that hosting them in France would be “a catastrophe”. However, with the war Ukraine Le Pen has endorsed that France open its arms to all Ukrainians fleeing their country.
It is therefore clear that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused a turn in statements of Le Pen, who has gone from to praise shamelessly autocrat Putin try to remove your links with the Kremlin of the collective imagination so as not to be harmed.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.