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Kremlin mopes over French election results

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Russia’s hopes for smoothing over relations with France were dashed by the results of the French legislative election, a Kremlin spokesperson said Monday.

France’s far-right National Rally, which has been criticized for its Russia-friendly positions, was unexpectedly trounced at the second round of polls on Sunday, with a leftist alliance snatching the most seats in a hung parliament.

“The victory of political forces that would be supporters of efforts to restore our bilateral relations is definitely better for Russia, but so far we do not see such bright political will in anyone, so we do not harbor any special hopes or illusions in this regard,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

Relations between France and Russia soured after the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, with Paris joining a raft of EU sanctions targeting Russia. French President Emmanuel Macron was one of the only European leaders to maintain a direct dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion but eventually cut him off.

Peskov added that “the moods of French voters” were “unpredictable” and that Moscow would “watch the formation of government, the formation of blocs … with great interest.”

“France is a very important country on the European continent, so of course, everything that happens there is interesting for us,” he said.

The Kremlin had earlier cheered Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, with its foreign ministry writing in a social media post last week that French voters “are seeking a sovereign foreign policy that serves their national interests & a break from the dictate of Washington & Brussels,” accompanied by a photo of the party’s leader Marine Le Pen.

The National Rally has proposed deepening ties with Moscow, opposed sanctions on Russia in response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine and took out a €9 million loan from a Russian bank to help finance its campaign in 2014 — which it only finished paying back last year.

Even with the National Rally beaten into third place, however, there is still a slim chance the Kremlin could have a friend in Matignon. Among the contenders to be France’s next prime minister is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the firebrand leader of France Unbowed, which is expected to obtain the most seats among left-wing groups in the next parliament — though Mélenchon for PM will be a tough sell.

Mélenchon has expressed at best tepid backing for Ukraine, voicing support for Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and voting against a security agreement between Paris and Kyiv earlier this year.

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