Marine Le Pen has called on the European Union to put an end to sanctions against Russia, arguing that the economic consequences to the bloc are too extreme.
Speaking during a parliamentary press conference on Tuesday, the Right-wing French politician said that the EU’s sanctions against Russia “serve no purpose” and should “disappear”.
She said: “Otherwise, Europe is going to face a blackout, notably on the question of Russian gas imports. These sanctions are simply useless. All they do is make Europeans suffer. And that, incidentally, includes French people.
“You’d need a huge dose of bad faith not to realise that, contrary to the inflated claims of our government, the Russian economy is not on its knees. They are not on the brink of bankruptcy.”
Agnes Pannier-Runacher, France’s minister for energy transition, shot back at Ms Le Pen’s statements, describing them as “extraordinarily dangerous” and “irresponsible”.
“[Ms Le Pen] may pride herself as being the most patriotic politician, but she’s actually the first to be ready to sell [France] for a plate of lentils to Russia,” she told CNews.
“We are in a crisis situation that we did not want, but which is now global – it is not only specific to Europe. We must remain very united and we must not give up on the principles of the [French] Republic and democracy.”
Ms Le Pen’s comments came as French lawmakers put the finishing touches to a colossal €20 billion (£16.7 billion) package of measures meant to help struggling households manage rising inflation and the energy crisis that may result in shortages this winter because of the war in Ukraine.
The measures, a key promise from Emmanuel Macron during his re-election campaign, include capping electricity wholesale price rises at four per cent, increases in pensions and benefits, and capping rent increases at 3.5 per cent.
The EU has adopted seven packages of sanctions against Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February. They include individual sanctions against nearly 11,000 people including Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s respective president and foreign minister; bans on the export of certain products such as luxury goods, crude oil and gold; and cutting Russia off from the Swift international payment system.
Despite an EU embargo on most Russian oil imports, analysts found that Europe actually increased its imports of Russian diesel by more than a fifth in July.
The bloc imported nearly 700,000 barrels a day of fuel from Russia in July, a 22 per cent increase compared to the same time last year.
The findings, which came from the tanker tracking group Vortexa, highlighted the challenge Europe faces when it comes to weaning itself off Russian oil imports.
European leaders have defended the move, saying that adjustments will be made to decrease its dependence on Russian oil in the coming months.
Still, international researchers said that despite Mr Putin’s efforts to keep the Russian economy going, sanctions will eventually work if properly implemented.
Other reports suggested that Russia’s economy is already being “catastrophically” crippled by Western sanctions, with domestic production at a “complete standstill”.
According to a report from the University of Yale’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute, the 1,000-plus companies that have left Russia since the start of the invasion have resulted in net losses of $600 billion (£496 billion), about 40 per cent of Russia’s GDP.
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