Macron Hits Marine Le Pen for Being in 'Russia's Grip' With Unpaid Loan

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen on Wednesday for being in "Russia's grip" over an unpaid loan she received from a Russian bank.

"You are in fact, in Russia's grip," Macron said to Le Pen during a presidential debate on Wednesday, referencing a loan that Le Pen's party received from a Russian bank in 2014.

"You are speaking to your banker when you speak of Russia, that's the problem," Macron said during the debate.

In response to Macron's criticism, Le Pen explained that she took the loan from the Russian bank because she was unable to receive one from a French bank.

Marine Le Pen
French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen for her ties to Russia after she received a loan from a Russian bank in 2014. Above, Macron and Le Pen are seen on a TV screen during a televised presidential debate on April 20, 2022. LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty

"Why was I forced to take out a loan?" Le Pen asked. "Because no French bank agreed to give me a loan."

Despite her response, Macron said that other people in France who are in need of money do not go to a "Russian bank related to the authorities for millions and then not pay it back."

Le Pen went on to explain that her party continues to repay the loan but noted that "we are a political party with not a whole lot of resources."

In addition to receiving the loan from the Russian bank in 2014, Le Pen traveled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during her previous run for the presidency in 2017.

Despite the comments from Macron during Wednesday's debate for her ties to Russia and Putin, Le Pen sought to distance herself from the Kremlin, condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and saying that she supports most of the sanctions that France has imposed.

"I agree with all of the sanctions taken against Russian oligarchs and banks but the only sanction that I disagree with is the ban on imports of Russian oil and gas because I don't think that's the right method," she said. "I don't think that is what will hurt Russia."

Le Pen also expressed concern over a "long-standing fear" that sanctions and criticism toward Russia will "throw" them "into the arms of China."

"That they will become such close allies in the future, that they will turn into a superpower, both economically, monetarily, maybe even militarily," Le Pen said. "This could be a huge risk for the West, for Europe and for France."

Le Pen made similar comments earlier this week about a potential alliance between Russia and China.

"Imagine ... if we let the first producer of raw materials in the world — which is Russia — [create an alliance] with the first factory of the world — which is China — to let them perhaps constitute the first military power of the world. I believe that it's potentially a great danger," Le Pen said during an interview with French public radio this week, according to Politico Europe.