Marine Le Pen’s links to Russia under US scrutiny
Ms Le Pen’s Front National party has made no secret of the fact that it has taken foreign loans to help bankroll its presidential campaigns because, it has argued, French banks refuse to stump up the funds.
But in light of allegations of Russian interference in the US election of Donald Trump, scrutiny has now turned to Ms Le Pen, who is polled to reach the final round of France’s presidential elections in May.
In an extract of a letter dated November 28 to James Clapper, who heads up 17 American intelligence organisations and agencies, he notes that the Front National “publicly acknowledged that it had received a $9.8 million loan from a Russian bank with links to the Kremlin, allegedly brokered by a sanctioned Russian Duma deputy, according to French press reporting.”
The bank in question was First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB) in Moscow. Mr Turner goes on: “In February 2016, the FN asked Russia for a $30 million load to fund the FN leader Marine Le Pen’s 2017 campaign. More here from the Telegraph.
FITSANAKIS: France’s primary intelligence agency warned the country’s government this week that Russia has launched a secret operation to try to influence the outcome of the upcoming French presidential election in favor of the far right. According to the Paris-based weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, France’s Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) has notified the country’s leadership that a covert operation by the Kremlin is already underway, and is expected to intensify in the run-up to April’s election. The spy agency allegedly believes that Russian efforts aim to promote Marine Le Pen, leader of the ultra-right National Front. Le Pen wants to curb immigration to France and remove the country from the European Union.
In an article published on Wednesday, Le Canard Enchaîné said the DGSE’s warning has alarmed the Élysée Palace. The paper also said that French President François Hollande, who chairs the country’s defense council, has decided to devote the entire agenda of the council’s next meeting to the subject of Russia’s alleged interference in the election. Anonymous sources told the paper that, according to a classified DGSE report, Russian spy agencies are using automated systems designed to “fill the Internet with tens of millions” of articles, images and memes that support the National Front candidate. Additionally, several news media that are controlled by Moscow will try to discredit Le Pen’s rivals for the presidency. At the same time, websites such as WikiLeaks —which some American commentators accuse of working with Moscow— will publish leaked information designed to damage Le Pen’s competitors.
The Le Canard Enchaîné allegations sound very similar to accusations leveled against the Kremlin by American intelligence agencies and by members of the United States Democratic Party. However, these allegations have not been supported by concrete evidence, and Russia denies that it had any involvement in last November’s presidential election in the US, which was won by Donald Trump.
*** Meanwhile…. As top U.S. commanders are sounding the alarm of the forgotten war in Afghanistan due to the terror factions operating there including the even more deadly Taliban, Russia is legitimizing them to counter NATO. Are the Western leaders nurturing relationships with the Kremlin good with that as coalition countries have troops in Afghanistan?
“The Russian involvement this year has become more difficult,” Gen. John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “First, they have begun to publicly legitimize the Taliban. This narrative that they promote is that the Taliban are fighting Islamic State and the Afghan government is not fighting Islamic State and that, therefore, there could be spillover of this group into the region. This is a false narrative.”
“I believe its intent is to undermine the United States and NATO,” he later added.
Nicholson was testifying about the current situation in Afghanistan, which he called a stalemate that he needs a few thousand more troops to break.
Among the challenges in the country are the actions of external actors such as Pakistan, Iran and Russia, Nicholson said.
He said Russia’s meddling in Afghanistan started in 2016 and continues to increase.
In addition to spreading a narrative that the Taliban is fighting the Afghan branch of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Russia has also organized a series of meetings to discuss the future of Afghanistan without inviting the Afghan government, Nicholson said. More here.