Why Russia’s offensive in Donbass once again puts Marine Le Pen at odds

Since Monday, the Russian army has launched an offensive in Donbass, Ukraine. This new offensive does not suit Marine Le Pen, who has been struggling since the beginning of the campaign to dispel the impression of collusion between her and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Emmanuel Macron will not hesitate to attack him on this point during Wednesday night’s debate.

Far from the human tragedy represented by the Russian attack on the Donbas River in southeastern Ukraine, it already promised that it would have repercussions for the conclusion of the French presidential campaign. The attack began on Monday, six days before the second round of voting, and the attack once again shed an embarrassing light on Marine Le Pen’s longtime favouritism for the Kremlin.

In any case, Emmanuel Macron’s event provides an offensive angle for Wednesday night’s debate. His entourage is also preparing the ground.

President Zelensky’s disavowal

Words that resonate deeply and negatively affect the competitor to the Elysee. In his extraordinary interview with us that we broadcast on Wednesday at 6:50 pm, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky disavowed himself of Marine Le Pen’s position.

“If the candidate realizes she was wrong, our relationship can change,” he said.

On January 5, 2017, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry banned her from staying in the territory the day after her statements justifying the annexation of Crimea by Russia. A view she renewed again on February 1, 2017, in an interview with CNN, an excerpt from which was circulated during this interval.

• A subject that serves his opponent

Emmanuel Macron’s camp also hoped it would open the presidential debate on international issues. The lottery decides otherwise, and the discussion will first be on the topic of purchasing power. But the current president of the republic will not have to be patient for long, and foreign policy should be the second act of exchange.

The benefit is double for Emmanuel Macron. Obligating the influence of science and initiatives on the international arena, the topic of the war in Ukraine is supposed to demonstrate the presidential status that has been established by the outgoing reality. Above all, the Russian aggression on the Donbass is again putting his opponent in a bind, relaunching the trials in collusion with Moscow that has been hunting Marine Le Pen since the end of February.

• photo shock

But the National Rally candidate was keen to denounce this new phase of the conflict on Monday.

“I condemn the Russian attack against the Ukrainian people in Donbass,” she wrote on Twitter at the time.

“We must support all possible diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire and impose peace on Russia so that Ukraine can regain full sovereignty,” he added.

Only here, the unpleasant impression of a connection between Marine Le Pen and Russia seems stubborn. First of all, there is this photo that commemorates his meeting on March 24, 2017 in Moscow with Vladimir Putin. The cliché supposedly cut him international uniforms and the Elysee contender aired it in his first campaign flyers. That was before February 24, before the war, and today the picture confirms a geopolitical miscalculation more than it enhances his diplomatic career.

• Russian loan

The press even pointed out more realistic links between the National Rally and the Powerful Union: he signed up for a loan from a Russian bank, and the loan is still being repaid.

Marine Le Pen has also had to justify herself on this point repeatedly. Thus, last Wednesday, the candidate exposed her foreign policy program at the Hoch Salon in Paris, and insisted that the banking institution in question is not only Russian but “Czech-Russian”, and that she only turned to it by default, stressing that the French banks refused to give her any credit.

“I am completely independent of any connection with a foreign power,” until she wanted to refute Marine Le Pen.

But soon after, two “Collective Ibiza” activists interrupted the press conference, waving a sign denouncing the handshake between the leader of the National Rally and Vladimir Putin.

• Russia remains at the top of its international agenda

Marine Le Pen offers more grain to grind her critics than if she has distanced herself from Russia since it entered the war against Ukraine and even more since the invasion of Donbass, she is reluctant to bury the relationship. She even emphasized her desire for a “strategic rapprochement between NATO and Russia” after the conflict.

She explained to reporters a week ago that “this is in the interest of France and Europe.”

A desire to reconcile is to say the least in the current context. Which reflects the reservations of deputies formed in the Strasbourg Parliament. Indeed, on April 7, the latter did not vote in favor of the European resolution aimed at protecting children fleeing from the theater of war.

• embarrassing footnote

Among the members of the European Parliament in the National Assembly, we also find Thierry Mariani. First celebrated as a war prize when he joined the party in 2019, this Republican defector has demonized himself somewhat. After his defeat during his last regional tour in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, it is his known – and very presumed – sympathy for Russia that poses a problem at this last stage.

Realizing that the position and composition of his entourage could well alert a sensitive opinion of the Ukrainian issue, Marine Le Pen chose to put it in the background. the world Note that Thierry Mariani was not among the spokespersons called to run groups to promote the candidate. Evening diary notes, however, indicate that he still provided him with notes he had written, especially for the discussion on Wednesday.

Macron’s camp when maneuvering

Of course, the staff of Marine Le Pen are not the only ones preparing for the evening. Nor did Emmanuel Macron, in recent days, lack assistants to light the first fires. And they did not procrastinate in the argument used against their leader’s rival. Thus, many of them attacked it head-on in the current war.

On Monday, as the Russian intrusion into the Donbass was imminent, government spokesman Gabriel Attal called France 2, a nod to the excesses of the MP-elect’s father in the Calais Pass:

“The atrocities we see in Ukraine are a detail point in history for Marine Le Pen, to use a formula from this party.”

On Tuesday, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister, used the same lever with West of France. “There will only be one question” should Marine Le Pen win on Sunday, he said, before listing several questions: “Will France maintain its position as a leader in Europe? In the face of Russian aggression? Will France support the Ukrainians? Facing this new brutal phase? Is Will France continue its military support to Ukraine and sanctions? There is a strong question you must answer.”

So Marine Le Pen will have a whole evening to do it in a few hours. We doubt she has a choice.

Robin Werner BFMTV journalist

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