The Independent reports: President Vladimir Putin is widely suspected of being behind an extraordinary Russian cash and charm offensive that is reported to be trying to woo Europe’s far-right populist parties in order to strengthen the Kremlin’s political influence within the European Union.
In recent weeks, the Kremlin’s targets have included France’s xenophobic Front National (FN) party, and politicians from three German parties including the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), the Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Social Democrats (SPD).
Marine Le Pen’s Front National was recently granted a €9m (£7m) loan by a small financial institution called the First Czech-Russian Bank. The cash will be used to fund the party’s campaign for next year’s regional elections.
French banks were unwilling to fund the FN. “We cast our the net wide: in Spain, in Italy, in Asia and in Russia,” Ms Le Pen told Le Monde. “We have signed with the first catch and we are very happy.” In the past, Ms Le Pen has made no secret of her support for Mr Putin.
The FN’s bank loan was followed this week by the release of details from a leaked Moscow strategy paper that suggests Mr Putin has been advised to try to influence European politics by such wooing. [Continue reading…]