Russia invited even more French personalities than previously reported to whitewash its dirty elections last weekend.
It invited centre-right MEP François-Xavier Bellamy, far-right MEP Nicolas Bay, and a far-right local politician called Frédéric Boccaletti, according to French weekly magazine Le Canard enchaîné.
It also invited Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French former International Monetary Fund chief, who fell from grace in a sex scandal and became a lobbyist, including for Russian oil firm Rosneft.
In the end, Bay stayed home.
But three other MEPs from Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) party – Hervé Juvin, Jean-Lin Lacapelle, and Thierry Mariani – did also go, as previously reported by EUobserver.
They flew out on 13 September on an all-expenses paid basis and stayed at the Radisson hotel in Moscow, where they had dinner and cocktails on its boat, Le Canard enchaîné noted.
They were meant to stay until 22 September.
But some of the French observers went home on 18 September, one day before the election, which they praised anyway in glowing terms, Le Canard enchaîné said.
The French delegation also included more than 10 other national MPs, local politicians, and other personalities, such as a retired ambassador, according to EUobserver’s sources.
A handful of German and Slovak MEPs and other figures went as well.
The reason why some RN invitees got cold feet was because Le Pen did not want her party to look too pro-Russian in France ahead of French presidential elections next year, the French magazine added.
And she instructed Mariani and others not to tweet from Russia, Le Canard enchaîné said.
The Russian elections were boycotted by normal monitors from EU and European institutions, not least because the regime had locked up or excluded its opponents.
The European Parliament has a blacklist of fake-election monitors, which it aims to update in the next few weeks.
Those put on it are banned from going on official observation missions for a temporary period.
Bogus monitoring is a worry for NGOs, such as the Berlin-based European Platform for Democratic Elections, because it undermines the work of legitimate election observers.
It was an “urgent” and growing problem, the NGO’s director, Stefanie Schiffer, recently told this website.
It was also “often a gateway to corruption, via financial gifts or even games of [sexual] seduction, which later creates corrupt networks in European institutions,” she said.
And for its part, RN was exposed by French investigative website Mediapart back in 2014 for taking Russian money under the table to fight the previous French presidential vote.