French Presidential Candidates Vary in Views on Sanctions Against Russia and Oligarchs

A luxury cruiser moored near Marseille and owned by a company linked to a sanctioned Putin ally has been seized by French authorities as part of the response to the invasion of Ukraine.   (Photo by Nicolas Tucat/AFP via Getty Images)

A luxury cruiser moored near Marseille and owned by a company linked to a sanctioned Putin ally has been seized by French authorities as part of the response to the invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Nicolas Tucat/AFP via Getty Images)

Paris (CNSNews.com) – The presidential campaign in France is being dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with candidates being pressed on their position on the war, and on the punitive sanctions being imposed against Moscow and targeting Russian oligarchs with assets in Europe.

President Emmanuel Macron, who waited until last week before announcing his candidacy in next month’s election, told parliament that sanctions will impact “Russian personalities, including the highest leaders of the Russian Federation.”

Bruno Le Maire, economy minister and a close ally of Macron’s, told media that the aim was “to cause the collapse of the Russian economy.”

The European Union has imposed sanctions against some 680 Russian individuals and 53 entities, freezing their assets and banning them from travel to the E.U.

E.U. sanctions also target wealthy Russian businessmen who have chosen to live, invest, open bank accounts, or buy luxurious residences in France.

The government this week froze oligarchs’ assets in France including yachts and cruisers berthed in Mediterranean ports.

Republican presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse welcomed the actions, telling France Inter radio that it was important to do everything possible to “cause an electric shock,” adding that she was in favor of “sanctions targeting Russia to stop the offensive.” She has called for the measures to go further than they have already.

By contrast Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate for the far-right National Rally, voiced skepticism about the sanctions, calling them inefficient.

Le Pen criticized as “irresponsible” Le Maire comments about causing the collapse of Russian economy.

“These are words of war” she said in televised comments, reminding viewers that France was not a “co-belligerent.”

Le Pen has associated herself closely with President Vladimir Putin in the past, but of late has become somewhat more critical of his actions.

After the Ukraine invasion, she said, “I consider that what he did is very reprehensible. Therefore, it partly changes the vision that I can have of him.”

“Putin has a relentless will,” Le Pen told the  BFM TV channel. “I think that when you are faced with a great nation like Russia, it must at the same time fear you but also be respected.”

“Apparently Russia doesn’t fear the E.U., and at the same time Russia gets no respect from the E.U.”

National Rally leader Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin in March 2017. (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty Images)

National Rally leader Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin in March 2017. (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty Images)

Members of Le Pen’s campaign staff in various parts of the country were reportedly ordered to destroy campaign leaflets which featured a picture of Le Pen with Putin, taken during her 2017 presidential campaign. (Le Pen made it to the second-round runoff in 2017, but was roundly defeated by Macron.)

National-level party officials told media, however, that the move was an “isolated local initiative.”

They also said the leaflets, more than a million copies of which had been printed, had already been delivered to local federations at the beginning of February, and had mostly been distributed.

Meanwhile minor candidates have varying views on sanctions, and their effectiveness as a tool to change Putin’s policies.

“We must completely isolate Russia from the international community,” said Greens presidential candidate Yannick Jadot, who joined a demonstration in front of the Russian Embassy in Paris.

Jadot said it was necessary to “confiscate all the assets, all the heritage of the Russian oligarchs who are in the E.U.,” and added that he favors sanctions against Russian ally Belarus as well.

Campaigning in western France, Communist Party candidate Fabien Roussel went further, calling for villas of Russian oligarchs, typically only used for short periods each year, to be “requisitioned to house Ukrainian refugees who are fleeing the war. At least they will have a use!”

Roussel said doing that might stop Putin, “this zealous servant of billionaires who enrich themselves on the backs of Russian people.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, candidate for the leftist Rebellious France movement, said he believed sanctions were “useless, except to make life more difficult, perhaps for certain Russians for not long, but in any case for us in France.”

Eric Zemmour, candidate for the far-right Reconquest Party and viewed as the candidate most sympathetic to Russian positions, said he opposed sanctions, and did not believe they would be effective.

Zemmour has also said that Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Poland should return to Ukraine after the war. He suggests helping Ukraine, to avoid “destabilizing France, already overwhelmed by immigration.”

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