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Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party has repaid some 6 million euros remaining in a loan it owed to a Russian company called Aviazapchast, as it seeks to blunt opposition attacks on its ties to Russia.

The loan, originally granted in 2014, raised concerns that Le Pen was influenced by the Kremlin. Scrutiny of her party’s financial ties with Moscow has intensified since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

“We want the loan to be repaid as quickly as possible,” National Assembly deputy Kévin Pfeffer, RN party treasurer, told the Financial Times.

Pfeffer said repeated checks by France’s campaign finance watchdog showed there were “no problems” with the loan, which will be repaid at the end of 2028, but RN decided to put the matter behind it.

“This is a malicious argument by our opponents, but they will no longer be able to use it against us,” Pfeffer said.

French banks have long avoided lending to the party of Le Pen, who took over from her father in 2011, due to concerns about reputational risk. Le Pen is known for her inflammatory and sometimes racist rhetoric. To finance her final presidential campaign in 2022, Le Pen took out a 10.7 million euro personal loan from a Hungarian bank with ties to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

But as early as 2014, the party sought financing from Russia for the first time, obtaining a 9.4 million euro loan from First Czech Russian Bank to fund political activities and campaigns.

After the first loan was issued by Russian banks, leaked text messages between Russian officials seen by the Financial Times suggested that the Kremlin ordered the loan to reward Le Pen for her loyalty. She called the claims “outrageous and offensive.”

After the bank collapsed in 2016, the loans were transferred to Aviazapchast, a Moscow-based company that supplies Russian military aircraft and parts to the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

In 2020, the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on Aviazapchast for violating laws aimed at halting arms sales to Iran, North Korea and Syria. However, the company has not been hit by U.S. or EU sanctions related to the war in Ukraine.

Le Pen has been on the defensive over her previously outspoken support for Vladimir Putin and Russia since the Russian invasion. In 2014, she publicly supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Hoping to boost her international credentials as she ran for president in 2017, Le Pen met with Putin in Moscow months before the French election.

During last year’s presidential election debate, when Le Pen ran again against Macron, he accused her of being too close to Russia. “You cannot properly defend French interests in this matter because your interests are tied to people who are close to Russian power,” the president said.

RN is now able to repay the Russian loan because it won an unprecedented 88 seats in last year’s legislative elections, which doubled the annual funding it receives from France’s public financing system to about 10 million euros. The result also made the RN the largest opposition party in the National Assembly and pushed it from the margins into the government’s day-to-day operations and institutions for the first time.

Le Pen, who polls regularly show as the country’s second-most popular politician after former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, has said she may run for president for a fourth time in 2027. After two terms, Macron will no longer be able to run for president. Run again.

Additional reporting by Max Seddon

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