Putin congratulates Macron on French victory

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin congratulated Emmanuel Macron on his re-election as French president after defeating Marine Le Pen, a right-wing extremist candidate whom many in Russia prefer as a potential game-changing option for the Kremlin amid threats of new sanctions and amid the war in Ukraine.

“I sincerely wish you success in your government activities as well as good health and well-being,” Mr Putin said in a congratulatory message to Mr Macron, published by the Kremlin.

Mr. Macron has been one of the few Western politicians willing to engage with Mr Putin, relentlessly trying to push the Russian leader against diplomacy. Since the start of the war on February 24, the two presidents have had nine phone calls, according to the Kremlin.

But Mr Macron has been bound by the French commitment to transatlantic unity, something which Mrs Le Pen, his rival, was willing to weaken. Ms. Le Pen, whose National Rally party has borrowed millions from a Russian bank over the past decade, said the rapprochement with Russia would be her foreign policy priority when fighting in Ukraine stopped.

A victory by Mrs Le Pen would have been seen as a great triumph for Mr Putin, who has risked his country’s long-term economic well-being for the sake of territorial gain in Ukraine.

For some commentators in Russia, however, it was not Le Pen’s far-right or pro-Moscow stance that prevented her from being elected, but that she did not go far enough in supporting the Kremlin.

Zakhar Prilepin, a conservative Russian writer and politician, said on social media that instead of “trying to be glued together with Macron to one indistinguishable ball,” Le Pen “had to say she supports the particular operation , would leave NATO and send the Foreign Legion, Algerian Special Forces and her own security detail to Belgorod for exercises. “

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