Russia looms large over France’s presidential election, with candidates on the hard left, right and far right all promising to improve ties with the Kremlin, accused by some of meddling in the vote. As U.S. authorities press their investigation into alleged Russian interference in favor of Donald Trump in America’s election, officials on both sides of the Atlantic are warning of possible attempts by Russia to also sway the French vote. This week, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence outright accused Russia of an “overt effort” to disrupt France’s April 23-May 7 vote. “I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections,” Sen. Richard Burr told reporters.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans also criticized Russia, accusing President Vladimir Putin — who hosted French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen for a visit on March 24 — of trying to weaken an already ailing EU.
“There is a reason why Mr. Putin supports the extreme right all across Europe,” Timmermans told lawmakers in Spain.
“Because he knows the extreme right makes us weak, he knows the extreme right divides us….And a divided Europe means that Putin is the boss.”