Francois Fillon, who once held roles in Russian energy firms, has been formally questioned over alleged links with Moscow
Former Prime Minister of France Francois Fillon has stated during a parliamentary hearing on his alleged ties to the Kremlin that he hadn’t received ‘a centime’ from Russia in his political or private life.
Fillon, who served as premier under President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012 and was the nominee of the Republican Party in the 2017 French presidential election, appeared on Wednesday before the commission of inquiry into political, economic and financial interference from foreign powers.
According to Le Figaro, claims against Fillon have been advanced in connection with his membership on the boards of directors of Russian energy companies Sibur and Zarubezhneft. Fillon had held those positions since 2021 but left both after the start of the military operation in Ukraine. In response to allegations of Russian ties, the former PM countered that he considered himself as having retired from public life in 2017 and therefore within his rights to work in the private sector, just as anyone else.
“I lead my professional career as I see fit, if I want to sell rillettes on Red Square, I will sell rillettes on Red Square,” argued Fillon, the former Mayor of Sablé-sur-Sarthe commune, which is famous for its ‘Rillettes du Mans’ meat delicacy.
When asked about foreign interference, Fillon replied: “Yes, I encountered it, most of the time, it came from a friendly and allied country called the United States. I was listened in on with President Sarkozy for five years by [the US National Security Agency].” Alleged Russian interference would not affect him in any way, the ex-French premier stressed.
READ MORE: France’s ex-PM Fillon gets jail sentence over embezzlement scandal
The commission of inquiry into foreign, and particularly Russian, interference was launched by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party (RN) at the end of 2022. In addition to Fillon, several other politicians have also been questioned.
Fillon was sentenced in 2020 to five years in jail with three then suspended, and a hefty fine, over an embezzlement scandal. He was found guilty of paying his wife hundreds of thousands of euro from public funds for a minor job she was assigned to. The veteran politician has been barred from running for any public office for at least a decade as part of his punishment.
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May 03, 2023 at 08:30PM