Commission of inquiry into foreign interference: what the parliamentary report reproaches to the National Rally

The National Rally (RN) does not hide its anger. Marine Le Pen estimated, Thursday, June 1, that the parliamentary report of the commission of inquiry into foreign interference, which leaked during the day, was “dishonest and completely politicized”. “There is nothing, in fact”she assured, before denouncing “a political trial” during a press conference in Pas-de-Calais. Ironically, it was at the initiative of the RN that this commission was created. The party’s objective was in particular to respond to the accusations of Russian influence launched by Emmanuel Macron and the present majority, by extending the investigation “to all French political parties and leaders and to all potential interference”had announced the RN.

A total of 30 deputies from all sides sat on this commission. The report was adopted with 11 votes for, 5 against and two abstentions, according to our information. Franceinfo gives you the details of this document which causes the annoyance of the former RN presidential candidate.

“Ideological support” for Vladimir Putin’s regime

After detailing the main threats of interference from Russia, China, Iran, Morocco, Qatar and Turkey, the report focuses on Russian interference. “The National Rally is unique in its ideological proximity to the Russian regime and in its financial links which will be the subject of a detailed analysis”, announces the committee’s rapporteur, Constance Le Grip (Renaissance). The text then evokes the links between Russia and certain personalities of the RN such as Thierry Mariani and Aymeric Chauprade. The latter, MEP for the National Front from 2014 to 2019, “To undoubtedly played a key role in building ties between the National Front and some close to Mr. Putin”says the report.

The report quotes the words of MEP Nathalie Loiseau, interviewed by the commission of inquiry on April 6. According to the former Minister for European Affairs, the circuit “privileged by Moscow to spread its influence in France is, as elsewhere in Europe, the extreme right”.

“This link is explained in particular by a strong convergence of views with the Russian authorities on a certain number of political values ​​and questions geopolitics”, comments the report. It evokes a link “long-term” and recalls the Russophile positions of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the past, before estimating that “the strategy of political and ideological rapprochement between the party and the Moscow regime will be structured and accelerated” after the arrival of Marine Le Pen at the head of the RN. The report highlights contacts “frequent” between RN officials and Russian officials.

“The rapprochement with the circles of Putin’s power becomes an objective (of the RN.)”

The commission of inquiry

in his report

The report then dwells on Marine Le Pen’s statements about Russia. He recalls that the president of the RN has said, in the past, to share “common values” with the Russians and be “perhaps the only one in France who defends Russia”as related Mediapart.

The former RN presidential candidate has notably defended the annexation of Crimea by Russia on several occasions. “This direct relay of the Russian official discourse, this effective ‘transmission belt’ and, on this subject at least, never denied, are visibly appreciated by Moscow”notes the report, which takes as an example the enthusiastic reactions of the Russian press after the hearing of Marine Le Pen by the commission of inquiry. “All his remarks on Crimea, repeated during his hearing by the commission of inquiry, repeat word for word the official language of the Putin regime”denounces Constance Le Grip. “It should be noted, however, that the outbreak of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine on February 24, 2022 marked an attenuation of the pro-Russian positions of the National Rally”nuance the rapporteur.

The document also assures that the Russian regime “valued back” the RN and its leader. He evokes the official meeting between Marine Le Pen and Vladimir Poutine, on March 24, 2017, less than four weeks before the first round of the French presidential election. “This official meeting, which only the Russian press was able to cover, was eagerly awaited by Mrs. Le Pen, who had been requesting it for several years” in order to build a “international stature”, continues the report. The latter also returns to an alliance project, called “AltIntern” and carried by the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeïev. This last dream “of a rapprochement between the European far-rights sharing the same vision of a conservative, Christian Europe free of the ‘Brussels bureaucracy'”. As revealed by the “Complément d’Enquête” program, the “AltIntern” project “completely integrated the National Rally into its perimeter”says the report.

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“Acts of support” for Russia

The report mentions two types of RN support for Vladimir Putin’s Russia: travel and votes in the European Parliament. Marine Le Pen “has been to Moscow at least four times: in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017”, notes the report. The latter dwells on the many trips by RN MEPs, like the visit of a delegation led by Thierry Mariani to Crimea or during a constitutional referendum in Russia. If the vote was marred by fraud, according to several observers, “none of the members of the delegation of MEPs from the National Rally observed any breach of the electoral rules”the report is surprised.

“Another form of explicit support for the Russian regime consisted of MEPs who are members of the National Rally, voting by systematically aligning themselves with the interests of the Russian regime.”

The commission of inquiry

in his report

“From March 2019 to February 2022, the National Rally did not vote a single text critical of Russia”, assures the report, which lists the votes of the RN group. After the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the RN passed four resolutions against Russia, “while continuing to abstain or vote against many others”.

The report then wonders about the possible counterparties obtained by the RN in exchange for this active support for Russia. “No one was unaware of a certain number of politicians French from a certain side came (in Moscow) and did not leave empty-handed”had declared on LCI the former ambassador of France in Russia (between 2013 and 2017), Jean-Maurice Ripert. Heard by the commission of inquiryhe specified that it was a “personal judgment” based on its “prints”, but he maintained his remarks which were aimed at “representatives of the old party National Front”.

The question of the “Russian loan”

In the introduction to her report, Constance Le Grip considers that “the initiative of the National Rally (to create the committee) aims to ‘purge’ the question of the Russian loan granted to the National Front in 2014, and, at the same time, that of the nature of the links forged by many elected officials and party officials with the Russian regime”. The report points out that a former micro-party of Jean-Marie Le Pen, Cotelec, benefited in 2014 from a loan of 2 million euros from a Cypriot establishment, Vernonsia Holdings Ltd. According Mediapartthis financing would have been fed by Russian funds linked to a former Soviet secret service agent who headed the Russian state bank VEB Capital, “the financial arm of the Kremlin”notes the report. “The same year, the National Front took out a loan of 9.4 million euros from a Russian bank, the First Czech Russian Bank”adds the rapporteur.

After “strange tribulations to say the least”this loan is placed in the hands of the company Aviazapchast, whose sole shareholder is Valery Zakharenkov, “a reputed Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin”, continues the report. The National Rally then negotiated with its new creditor “a new loan contract”. The Russian made several concessions, according to the report: “He renounces to collect the whole sum at once, but also to receive the fines provided for a possible non-repayment of the loan. Above all, Aviazapchast has accepted a rescheduling of the loan”details the document.

“All of these circumstances raise questions about the motivations that led to the granting of these loans by Russian establishments to the FN and then to the RN, when the party, as described above, multiplied signs of support and closeness to the Russian authorities.”

The commission of inquiry

in his report

Marine Le Pen responded during her hearing by the commission of inquiry, denouncing a “smear campaign”which it attributes to the President of the Republic. “I tell you for the umpteenth time that the only link that exists between the National Rally and Russia is a loan that was signed in 2014, which we repay every month and which we will repay until 2028.

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