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15 Jun, 2023 17:36

Le Pen doubles down on Crimea

The French politician insisted the peninsula is a settled issue, unrelated to the current Ukraine conflict
Le Pen doubles down on Crimea

There is no point in bringing up Crimea in any negotiations between Moscow and Kiev to end the current conflict, French opposition leader Marine Le Pen said on Thursday. While she called for talks to begin as soon as possible, she added that Crimea is Russian and the issue has been settled since 2014.

“Crimea has nothing to do with the Ukraine conflict,” Le Pen told Franceinfo in the course of a morning newscast. “We can quibble about the conditions in which the referendum was organized, but the residents chose to be a part of Russia. That is the position of Nicolas Sarkozy, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, and the position of Marine Le Pen,” the National Rally leader explained, naming two former French presidents.

Le Pen argued that the current fighting was about Donbass and the failure of the Minsk agreements, and that the issue should not be muddled by bringing Crimea into it. The two presenters cut her off, insisting that Crimea is a matter of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and pressed Le Pen whether she would say publicly that Crimea is Russian.

“That’s always been clear. I’ve been saying it for [nearly] ten years and haven’t changed my mind,” the opposition leader replied.

Le Pen reiterated her position on Crimea before a parliamentary committee last month, responding to accusations from President Emmanuel Macron that she was part of a Russian “foreign influence” campaign. On that occasion as well, she said that Crimea was a historically Russian territory “given away” to Ukraine “at the whim of a dictator,” referring to the 1954 decision by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Ukraine’s government banned Le Pen from entering the country in 2017, after she insisted in multiple interviews that the 2014 referendum was legitimate and not an “illegal annexation” by Russia.

Crimeans organized a referendum in March 2014, shortly after the US-backed coup installed a government of Ukrainian nationalists in Kiev. The result showed overwhelming support for rejoining Russia, which Moscow accepted. Meanwhile, the new Ukrainian government violently crushed dissent in Odessa and Kharkov Regions and sent troops against Donetsk and Lugansk, triggering the current conflict.

Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) is the largest opposition party in the French parliament. She ran for president against Macron in 2022, getting enough votes to qualify for the runoff. Though Le Pen lost by a 17-point margin, she is currently polling ahead of the incumbent president.