Hello and welcome to the details of French far right says Russian loan repaid and now with the details
Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - France's far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) leader and member of the French Parliament Marine Le Pen poses before her interview during the French TV channel TF1's evening news, at the TF1 studios in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, on September 18, 2023. — AFP pic
PARIS, Sept 21 — France's far-right National Rally (RN) party has repaid a loan originally from a Czech-Russian bank that political opponents said demonstrated its ties to the Kremlin.
The remaining money — 6.1 million of the original 9.4 million euros (US$10 million at today's rates) — was paid back "in advance" to the Russian firm Aviazachast, which had bought the debt, the party said in a statement Tuesday.
RN officials hope getting out from under the debt can end attacks like Presidential Emmanuel Macron's last year, when he accused their candidate Marine Le Pen of being "dependent on the Russian regime" and President Vladimir Putin during an election debate.
Le Pen is "talking to her banker when she talks to Russia," Macron said at the time.
The loan "is used as an argument by my opponents, in my opinion unfairly, and I don't plan on giving my opponents any arguments," RN chief Jordan Bardella told daily Le Monde.
Winning dozens of seats in parliamentary elections following Macron's re-election has given the RN access to millions more in public funding, allowing it to repay the Russian debt before the 2028 deadline.
Its announcement of the repayment came the day after Le Pen said she was the party's "natural candidate" to run for president again in 2027, when Macron will have reached his two-term limit.
The loan, originally from the First Czech-Russian Bank (FCBR), kept the party afloat from 2014, when it claimed French lenders were refusing to extend credit.
Later bought by a Russian car rental firm after FCBR went bust, the debt ended up with Aviazachast, an aircraft components firm owned by former Russian soldiers.
The RN last year opened a parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference in French politics, in a bid to clear itself of allegations it was acting in Russia's interest.
"If (the loan) had committed me to anything at all, I wouldn't have signed up," Le Pen told the MPs.
"It was that or death" for the party because of its financial woes, she added.
But the committee's final report found that the RN was a "relay" for Russia in French politics, highlighting its "alignment" with Kremlin messaging when Moscow claimed to have annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
The party has also opposed French aid for Ukraine since Russia's invasion last year, and did not vote when the French parliament approved bids by Finland and Sweden to join Nato.
Marine Le Pen "has given no sign of a real break with the Kremlin", public broadcaster FranceInfo commented in an editorial.
"If tomorrow she continues to take pro-Russian positions, (she) will at least prove that it's not out of self-interest, but a real political choice." — AFP
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