Rus­sia re­joices as France turns to­wards Moscow

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Rus­sia’s con­ser­va­tive me­dia has cel­e­brated the vic­tory of François Fil­lon in the French Re­pub­li­can Party’s pres­i­den­tial pri­mary. They be­lieve he is their best hope for end­ing the EU’s sanc­tions on Moscow. EurAc­tiv France re­ports.

The Krem­lin was re­strained in its re­sponse to Fil­lon’s vic­tory in the French cen­tre-right pri­mary.

“Pres­i­dent Putin has al­ready ex­pressed his at­ti­tude to­wards the [French] pri­maries in his re­cent re­sponse to jour­nal­ists’ ques­tions. Moscow fol­lows elec­tions in other coun­tries, in­clud­ing France, re­spect­fully and keep­ing the re­quired dis­tance,” Krem­lin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said on Mon­day, in re­sponse to ques­tions about Vladimir Putin’s pref­er­ence.

The Rus­sian pres­i­dent feels no need to pub­li­cally take sides one way or the other and risk an em­bar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tion if his pre­ferred can­di­date loses. But the mes­sage from Putin’s sub­or­di­nates, the state me­dia and their ap­proved com­men­ta­tors is un­am­bigu­ous.

La­belled “the Krem­lin’s favourite can­di­date”, the French for­mer prime min­is­ter’s strong per­sonal re­la­tions with the Rus­sian pres­i­dent, his will­ing­ness to lift the sanc­tions on Moscow and his tough views on Is­lamic ter­ror­ism have earned him a warm re­cep­tion in the Rus­sian press.

Sput­nik, the Krem­lin’s in­ter­na­tional mouth­piece, did not ap­pear con­cerned about send­ing mixed mes­sages, with head­lines like, “When Putin wins the French pri­mary” along­side ar­ti­cles crit­i­cis­ing the “in­ter­na­tional me­dia” for see­ing “the hand of the Krem­lin” in the re­sult.

This con­tra­dic­tion barely hides a cer­tain sat­is­fac­tion at see­ing Rus­sia’s ad­ver­saries frus­trated. “And if a can­di­date sup­ports Moscow, what can you do, get en­raged and cry out in anger?” wrote an anony­mous Sput­nik au­thor.

Kate­hon, an ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive think tank close to the Krem­lin, made lit­tle ef­fort to hide its joy at the re­sult, pub­lish­ing an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled, “Pri­maries in France: Putin wins again.”

“Vic­tory for Fil­lon – de­feat for the At­lantists,” another ar­ti­cle pro­claimed, quot­ing the Pres­i­dent of the in­for­ma­tion com­mit­tee of Rus­sia’s Fed­eral Coun­cil, Alexei Pouchkov. “If Fil­lon wins, the Ber­lin-Paris part­ner­ship on Rus­sian af­fairs will dis­solve. Merkel will be left with Poland and the Baltic coun­tries. She will be al­most alone,” said Pouchkov.

Al­most with­out ex­cep­tion, the pro-Rus­sian me­dia be­lieve the stage is set for a right-wing vic­tory and that François Hol­lande – or his So­cial­ist Party suc­ces­sor – has no chance. “It is 90% cer­tain that France will rad­i­cally turn to­wards Moscow in May 2017,” po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Sergei Markov pre­dicted. He said he is al­most sure that the sec­ond round of the elec­tion will be fought be­tween “two friends of Moscow: François Fil­lon and Marine Le Pen. Both can­di­dates are op­posed to sanc­tions and in favour of French sovereignty in the face of Wash­ing­ton, Ber­lin and Brus­sels.”

Th­ese po­si­tions were strongly echoed by mem­bers of the French Re­pub­li­can Party in Rus­sia. Around 60 party mem­bers gath­ered to cel­e­brate their can­di­date’s vic­tory in a ho­tel op­po­site the Krem­lin.

Among them, Em­manuel Quidet, the pres­i­dent of the Franco-Rus­sian Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try (whose eco­nomic coun­cil is presided by the oli­garch and friend of Putin’s, Guen­nadi Timtchenko) and Philippe Pé­gorier, re­spon­si­ble for the party’s Rus­sian gov­ern­men­tal re­la­tions, di­rec­tor of Al­stom in Rus­sia and the for­mer pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Euro­pean Busi­ness.

The two busi­ness­men are fierce de­fend­ers of Krem­lin pol­icy and op­po­nents of the eco­nomic sanc­tions on Rus­sia. Their loy­alty has not gone un­no­ticed: both have been dec­o­rated by Rus­sia’s Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs, Sergei Lavrov, for “ser­vices to in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion”. Pé­gorier has also been awarded the “or­der of friend­ship” by Putin him­self.

So Fil­lon’s part­ners in Rus­sia may prove as use­ful to the Krem­lin as to Paris.

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