Russia: Macron criticises Marine Le Pen over ‘ambiguity’
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European Union countries agreed to push up new sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, with the latest salvo including a coal embargo. But French President Emmanuel Macron noted the European Parliament plenary session was noticeable for the absence of Marine Le Pen’s party. President Macron told RTL: “I noted the guilty absence of all the National Front parliamentarians in the European Parliament when it came to sanctioning Russia, which shows you the ambiguity of some people with Russia despite the war.”
Marine Le Pen’s position on Putin and her party’s links to the Kremlin have cast a long shadow over her campaign. Her campaign leaflets featured a photo of her with Putin himself on a visit to the Kremlin in the run-up to the 2017 French presidential election.
“We are experiencing a tragedy in Europe, a geopolitical and human tragedy”, President Macron said, baffled by Le Pen’s party links to Russia.
“France has done everything to avoid it since the beginning. First of all, we continue to sanction. And we have taken decisions that France has pushed a lot of new sanctions this morning.”
Ms Le Pen’s staff tried to destroy the leaflet already distributed nationwide but it was too little too late: the picture is still available on Le Pen’s campaign website.
Her party was embroiled in a 9-million-euro bank loan case with a Russian bank, according to the French investigative website Mediapart.
Since 2011, she has reportedly supported the Kremlin and her party has received two loans from Russian banks.
Despite her apparent links to Putin and the Kremlin, Le Pen has climbed in the polls in recent weeks – so much so that only a 2.5 percent gap separate her from her rival Emmanuel Macron in the first round.
The latest polls also show only a four percent gap between Macron and Le Pen in the second round, with Macron winning with 52 percent against 48 percent for Le Pen.
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In 2017, Macron won the second round with 66 percent of the votes while Le Pen garnered 34 percent of the votes.
The narrowing gap is also due to Macron’s notable absence from the campaign trial. All his opponents slammed him for dismissing the flagship election show “Elysée 2022” on French broadcast channel France 2 this week.
His campaign reportedly said that he is “a bit obliged to organise his time. He has less time available for campaigning than his competitors”.
French President Macron has been omnipresent on the international stage. He made dozens of calls with Putin in a bid to ease tensions amid the Ukraine-Russia conflict, which has led to criticism from Polish Prime Minister who suggested they had achieved nothing.
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For Macron, the end of the war could be on 9 May as Russia celebrates a bank holiday coinciding with the surrender of Nazi Germany.
“It’s pretty sure that for President Putin, 9 May must be a day of victory.”
According to US intelligence, Russian troops are redeploying to Ukraine’s eastern region of Donbas where fighting has been raging on since 2014.
In his February address to Russia’s people, Putin described the full-scale invasion as a peacekeeping operation meant to “denazify” Ukraine.
“And so, I think that they will concentrate their efforts on the Donbas, I think that we are going to experience very difficult scenes in the next days and weeks in the Donbas”, Macron concluded.
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