Jailed Putin critic Navalny calls on France to vote for Macron

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader says France is ‘close’ to his heart and he felt he could address the French people for a number of reasons.

Alexey Navalny gestures in the Moscow City Court
Alexey Navalny makes a heart symbol while standing in a cage during a court hearing in February in Moscow [Moscow City Court via AP]

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has called on French voters to support incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in the presidential election, accusing his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen’s party of links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny said he will “root for France” in the second round of voting on Sunday between Macron and Le Pen, who has supported Putin in the past.

“A Russian political prisoner addressing the voters of France is quite ironic… I certainly, without hesitation, urge the people of France to vote for @EmmanuelMacron on April 24,” Navalny said in a long Twitter thread on Wednesday.

Navalny added he was “shocked” that Le Pen’s party received a nine-million-euro loan ($9.8m) from “Putin’s notorious money-laundering outfit”, the First Czech-Russian Bank.

“I don’t doubt for a minute that negotiations with these people and deals with them included a shadowy political part as well,” Navalny, 45, said. “This is corruption. This is selling political influence to Putin.”

He said France was “close” to his heart and he felt he could address the French for a number of reasons.

“I’m in jail due to a criminal complaint by a French company,” he said, referring to French cosmetics company Yves Rocher.

In 2014, a Russian court found Navalny guilty of defrauding the Russian subsidiary of Yves Rocher in a ruling later declared “arbitrary” by the European Court of Human Rights.

He was handed a suspended sentence of three and a half years, but was ordered in 2021 to serve jail time.

“I will root for France, the French and @EmmanuelMacron,” Navalny said on Twitter.

‘Just a hypocrite’

He added he also wanted to appeal to those who would not rule out voting for Le Pen. He said anyone who calls themselves a “conservative” and is sympathetic to Putin is actually “just a hypocrite with no conscience”.

“Elections are always difficult. But you have to go to them to at least vote against someone,” Navalny wrote.

In 2020, Navalny survived a poisoning attack with Novichok, a Soviet-designed nerve agent, which he blamed on the Kremlin.

Last month, a Russian court found him guilty of new charges of embezzlement and contempt of court and extended his sentence to nine years in a higher security prison.

Navalny and his team have published videos about the wealth of Russian elites, garnering millions of views on YouTube.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies