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Why Fillon ‘Risked’ Commenting on Crimea Prior to France’s Presidential Election

Why Fillon ‘Risked’ Commenting on Crimea Prior to France’s Presidential Election

Why Fillon ‘Risked’ Commenting on Crimea Prior to France’s Presidential Election
April 21
14:38 2017

In a recent interview with Le Figaro, French center-right presidential candidate Francois Fillon said that Russia will never leave its “historic” peninsula of Crimea and that it is “futile” for the West to demand that Moscow abandon the region.
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“It is futile to demand that Russia should leave Crimea; it will never happen…. Nobody can deny that from historic, cultural and linguistic points of view, Crimea is Russian,” Fillon, who represents the Republicans party, said.

According to the candidate, two basic and contradictory principles should be taken into consideration when discussing the Crimea issue: respect for borders and the right of the people to self-determination.

“No one can ignore that in terms of history, culture and language Crimea is Russian,” Fillon noted.

He also suggested that the problem could be settled with the help of a special UN-brokered international conference.

Earlier, French presidential candidates have already brought up the Crimean issue during their pre-election debates. In particular, while discussing Crimea in late-March, Fillon said that people have a fundamental right to decide on their own future and recalled the case of Kosovo.

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“We have changed borders ourselves. Kosovo, for example. There is a fundamental principle of the right of people to decide for themselves. There are borders that have been established in a way that’s unacceptable for people,” he said.

In France, Fillon isn’t the only politician to have made such controversial statements, according to Mikhail Neyzhmakov, a senior analyst at the Russian Agency for Political and Economic Communications.

“Prior to the first round of the election, almost all French candidates have made risky statements. For example, recently [leader of the right-wing National Front] Marine Le Pen said that Nagorno-Karabakh should be reunited with Armenia. Of course, this was an appeal to the French Armenian community, but for a politician who wants to be elected president it was risky,” Neyzhmakov told reporters.

He suggested that by doing so, Fillon first of all wants to win more support from voters.

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“Currently, the results of the first round are uncertain, and in this situation it is very important to mobilize supporters of a particular candidate. In these terms, Fillon could have made such a statement in a bid to attract those who share his loyal attitude towards Russia as well as those who expect economic benefits from normalizing ties with Russia, for example, French farmers. They don’t make up a significant percentage, but this may be an attempt to win their votes,” Neyzhmakov said.

France’s agricultural sector is extremely politically active within the European Union; in 2013, direct aid to farmers and market-related expenditures amounted to 30 percent of the EU budget, according to the Union’s web site.

Crimea seceded from Ukraine and rejoined Russia in March 2014, after a referendum determined that almost 97 percent of the region’s population was in favor of the move. Sevastopol, a politically separate city in the peninsula which also voted on secession, supported the reunification with 95.6 percent of votes.

The referendum was held after the February 2014 coup in Ukraine. Kiev, as well as the European Union, the United States and their allies, did not recognize the move and consider the peninsula to be occupied territory.

 

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Edward Bokhua

Edward Bokhua

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