European media is reporting on an investigation that has revealed links between Russia and several rightwing and far-right French politicians. A EURACTIV report describes what is called “a huge campaign to destabilise and manipulate public opinion by building links to French public officials:”
October 28, 2022 Several right-wing and far-right French politicians have links to the Kremlin, according to a new journalistic investigation carried out by France 2 which the politicians either denied or claimed to know nothing about. The investigation, which aired on Thursday showed that the Kremlin carried out a huge campaign to destabilise and manipulate public opinion, by building links to French public officials. The former prime minister and failed presidential candidate François Fillon, for example, was found to have built a close rapport with President Vladimir Putin himself, according to the investigation. Former French Ambassador to Russia Stanislas de Laboulaye claimed the Russians had put together “a charm operation” to seduce Fillo to garner political influence ahead of the 2017 French presidential elections. Fillon, who went on to win the right-wing party’s primaries in 2016, and then lose following accusations that he had hired family members for little to no work, still benefited from Putin’s personal support. “François Fillon is very different from today’s politicians,” the Russian president said at the time. In 2021, Fillon was given seats at the executive table of Russian energy firms Zarubezhneft and Sibur but resigned following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He was also criticised for making pro-Russian comments about the invasion.
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François Fillon is known as a social conservative and proponent of “family values” who, while a member of the National Assembly, voted against:
- decriminalization of homosexuality
- civil unions for homosexual couples
- adoption rights for homosexual couples
- legalization of same-sex marriage
The EURACTIV report also identifies two MEPs from Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party, one of which was reportedly chosen by Russian media oligarch Konstantin Malofeev to participate in a confidential project called “AltIntern:”
Kremlin’s influence strategy also reaches deep into Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party. Two MEPs, Thierry Mariani and Philippe Olivier, have played an extensive role in spreading the Russian narrative at the EU and French levels. Mariani visited Russia in 2021 as an observer of legislative elections and within his personal capacity. His trip was paid for with EU funds, the documentary revealed. As for Olivier, he was reportedly chosen by Russian media magnate Konstantin Malofeev to participate in a confidential project called “AltIntern”, which aimed to make a “union of the European extreme right”. Malofeev, who in the documentary expressed happiness at the rise of Olivier, was banned from the EU in 2014 on suspicion of financing guerrilla warfare in the Donbas region.
Another French media report further describes the values to be promoted by the AltIntern project as “Christendom as the foundation of life” and marriage presented as “the union of a man and a woman.”
In March 2022, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported on leaked emails and documents that showed how a Russian influence group known as Tsargrad was cooperating with senior far-right politicians in Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. As that post detailed, Tsargrad is funded by the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev (aka Malofeev), known by US intelligence as the Russian President’s “right arm for operations of political interference in Europe,” and designated by the US in 2014 over his interference in Ukraine. A recent UK media profile of Malofeyev describes him and his role in funding anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ initiatives:
Malofeyev gained his wealth in telecommunications during the late 2000s. He has used his power to wage an information war on Europe, allegedly providing loans to far-right parties and funding anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ initiatives in the region. His influence empire includes the Katehon think-tank which regularly platforms far-right authors and is “considered one of the instruments for Russian interference in the West”. The US State Department describes Katehon as “a proliferator of virulent anti-Western disinformation and propaganda”. Tsargrad TV is the public entertainment face of Katehon. Dubbed by the Financial Times as “God’s TV, Russian style”, the channel was deliberately designed to mimic Fox News and judge political candidates’ views on issues such as religion, abortion, LGBTIQ rights and Putin.
That post also identified the AltIntern project and its connection to the Democracy and Identity movement, which holds 64 of the 705 seats in the European Parliament and consists of members of the League and the National Rally, formerly known as the National Front, headed by Marine Le Pen.
A GIOR report on the Global National Conservative Alliance (GNCA) documented Russian Putin’s desire to become the ideological center of the GNCA, centered on national sovereignty, cultural identity, and opposition to global institutions. That report identified Hungary as the center of that alliance:
Russian President PUTIN has expressed an interest in Russia becoming the ideological center of a new global conservative alliance, and European far-right leaders have taken pro-Russian positions based on a similar ideology. Hungary is at the center of a developing alliance between European far-right nationalists and American conservatives that Russia could potentially exploit for use in information warfare. This alliance operates under the rubric of “National Conservatism,” centered on national sovereignty, cultural identity, and opposition to global institutions and representing a potentially radical change for the US conservative movement away from long-held Reagan-era philosophies
Read the full report here.
GIOR reported last week that Russian President Vladamir Putin had again delivered a speech extensively referencing culture war themes.
Opposition to “gender ideology” is a central issue for the GNCA and GIOR reported last week on the role played by the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), a Hungarian education facility supported by the Orban government, in disseminating Russian-style anti-LGBTQ propaganda. Hungarian Prime Minister Orban and Marine Le Pen congratulated far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on her election victory in September. Meloni is also known for opposing “gender ideology” and other similar culture war themes commonly espoused by rightwing/conservative Western elements.