France’s far-right National Rally party has fully repaid its controversial loan to Russia, the party announced Tuesday.
The party repaid more than 6 million euros to Russian company Aviazapchast SA, including “capital and interest,” National Rally MP and party treasurer Kévin Pfeffer said in a statement.
“It’s a relief given the political argument that this simple loan has become,” he told Le Figaro.
Former party leader Marine Le Pen took out the loan from the Czech First Russian Bank in 2014. The bank has since gone bankrupt and handed the loan over to Russian company Aviazapchast.
But the shadow of the loan has long loomed over the far-right party, with Le Pen heavily criticized for her ties to Russia. Since the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, Le Pen has struggled to shed her reputation as a pro-Putin politician, despite her attempts to reverse her previous statements and condemn the war.
Le Pen’s successor as president of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella, said he wanted to close the chapter before next year’s European elections, in order to distance himself from Russophile accusations, according to Le Figaro.
Pfeffer said repaying the large sum would force the party to “balance” its management and campaign for the European elections, but said the party would be “able to maintain our standard of living”.
Bardella plans to pay all the parties’ debts – amounting to around 26 million euros as of December 2022 – before the French presidential elections scheduled for 2027.
The National Rally made unprecedented progress in last year’s parliamentary elections, winning a record 89 seats, increasing its public funding from €5.2 million to €10.2 million. euros each year.
Pfeffer told Le Figaro that they would use their public funds to repay their debts.