French far-right party National Rally has fully paid back its controversial Russian loan, the party said Tuesday.
The party has paid back over €6 million to Russian company Aviazapchast S.A., including “capital and interest,” National Rally lawmaker and party treasurer Kévin Pfeffer said in a press release.
“It’s a relief given the political argument that this simple loan had become,” he told French newspaper Le Figaro.
Former party leader Marine Le Pen took out the loan from First Czech Russian Bank in 2014. The bank has since gone bankrupt, passing on the loan to Russian company Aviazapchast.
But the shadow of the loan has long loomed over the far-right party, with Le Pen heavily criticized over her ties to Russia. Since the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, Le Pen has struggled to shake off her reputation as a pro-Putin politician, despite her attempts to backtrack on previous statements and to condemn the war.
Le Pen’s successor as National Rally president, Jordan Bardella, said he wanted to close the chapter ahead of the EU election next year, to distance himself from Russophile accusations, according to Le Figaro.
Pfeffer said paying back the large sum will force the party to “balance” running the party and campaigning for the European election, but said the party will be “able to maintain our standard of living.”
Bardella is planning to pay all party debts — amounting to about €26 million in December 2022 — before France’s presidential elections, slated for 2027.
The National Rally made unprecedented gains in last year’s legislative elections, bagging a record 89 seats, which increased its public funding from €5.2 million to €10.2 million each year.
Pfeffer told Le Figaro they will use their public funding to repay their debts.
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