The financial and political firepower of Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) is to be transformed by a €40m (£32m) loan from a bank with links to the Kremlin, it has been alleged. Ms Le Pen confirmed earlier this week that a Russian bank was lending her cash-strapped, far-right party €9m. This is part of a growing pattern of connections between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and far-right and Europhobic parties in the European Union. Ms Le Pen dismissed as “fantasy” a report that the €9m was the first instalment of loans totalling €40m which will allow her to mount an unbridled challenge to France’s mainstream parties in regional elections next year and presidential elections in 2017. However, other senior FN officials told the investigative website Mediapart that there was an agreement that the First Czech-Russian Bank would provide most of the party’s funding needs up to the presidential election in 30 months’ time. “A first instalment has been agreed of a €40m loan,” a member of the party’s political bureau told Mediapart. “The €9m has arrived. Another €31m will follow.”
The €40m represents eight times the present annual budget of the Front National.Bernard Monot, an FN MEP and economic adviser to Ms Le Pen, said that an understanding had been reached with the Russian bank rather than a firm deal.
The FN had “expressed a global financing requirement” of €45m up to the presidential election, he said. “We are taking it step by step. The details will be sorted out as we go along.”
Even the smaller €9m loan – confirmed by Ms Le Pen – has caused consternation in France and in other European capitals. The state-controlled media in Russia habitually attacks the Ukrainian government as run by “neo-Nazis”. At the same time, Moscow has been building strong political – and allegedly financial – links with hard-right, nationalist parties all over the EU.