The National Front in France has admitted taking a huge loan from a bank controlled by Russia. National Front leader Marine Le Pen announced last week that her party had taken an 11-million-dollar loan from the First Czech-Russian Bank. She made the announcement during a visit to Moscow.
Her admission came as the French government delayed an agreement to deliver two warships for Russia. The French president’s office said the situation in Ukraine did not permit delivery of the warships, which carry helicopters. The ships are being built in the port of Saint Nazaire.
The National Front has campaigned hard for the warship agreement to be completed. The party’s Gauthier Bouchet spoke to VOA in October.
“Our position is to protect our industry, to protect our right to trade with every country that we want.”
The National Front has attracted thousands of people in French towns and cities. Opinion studies show it is the country’s most popular party.
Neil Barnett is with the Center for Policy Studies in London. He says supporting far-right, anti-European Union parties is part of a Russian strategy.
“To divide European countries from each other, their governments from each other... To spread division within the European Union, but also more broadly to divide Europe from the U.S… Having radical political forces potentially forming governments in major EU states is a major contribution towards that.”
Last month, pro-Russian rebels held elections in parts of eastern Ukraine. Some Western observers did not think the elections were legitimate. But several parties in Europe accepted invitations to serve as election monitors, observing the voting.
Neil Barnett called attention to the lists of election observers the Russians brought into Crimea and later into Donetsk and Luhansk. He said the lists contain a variety of European movements that openly sympathize with Russia. He says some may possibly be receiving financial support from Russia.
“This is really an intelligence matter. And so payments that have been happening will have been happening generally covertly through third parties.”
In Hungary, the Jobbik Party won 20 percent of the vote in elections last April. The party has called for special detention camps for the Roma people. It also has argued that Jews are a national security risk.
Also present for the voting in eastern Ukraine were representatives of Italy’s Forza Party, Bulgaria’s Ataka and the Communist Party in Greece.
Relations between Russia and Europe are sharply deteriorating over Ukraine. Russia’s finance minister says Western sanctions against Russia and falling oil prices would cost his country up to $140 billion a year.
Nicholas Redman is with the International Institute of Strategic Studies. He says Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the economic pain to fuel public opinion against the West.
“Anti-Americanism is something that is being given full rein. Some people who are in opposition now risk being classed as traitors. Society is in some senses on a phony war footing. The political set up is now conditioned for several years of economic relative hardship.”
I’m Mario Ritter.
VOA’s Henry Ridgwell reported this story from London. Jeri Watson wrote the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
deliver – v. to take something to a person or place
attracted - v. caused someone to choose to do or be involved in something
strategy - n. a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal, usually over a long period of time
contribution - n. something that is contributed; something that is given to help a person or a cause, etc.
legitimate - adj. allowed according to rules or laws
variety – n. a number or collection of different things or people