Ukraine’s Zelensky, Kremlin critic Navalny call on France to vote for Macron in presidential race
File photo taken June 17, 2019 of French President Emmanuel Macron greeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Elysée presidential palace in Paris. © Christophe Ena, Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and jailed Russian Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny voiced support separately for French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of Sunday's second round of the presidential election that pits the incumbent against Russia-friendly far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

Navalny tweeted his support for Macron, calling on French citizens to vote for him just hours before the two presidential candidates face off in a high-stakes televised debate. Zelensky, in a TV interview, said he did not want to influence French elections but spoke in favor of Macron.

"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 posted in French and English.

Navalny added that he was "shocked" that Le Pen's party received a €9 million loan 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," 45-year-old Navalny said.

"This is corruption. This is selling political influence to Putin," he added.

'I will root for France'

Navalny 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.

Navalny was jailed last year when he returned to Russia after receiving medical treatment in Germany following a poison attack.

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

Le Pen 'made a mistake' on Russia

Ukrainian President Zelensky was more circumspect in his support for Macron.

"While I do not think that I have the right to influence what happens in your country, I want to say I have a relationship with Emmanuel Macron and I would not want to lose that," he told French TV station BFM.

He added that Le Pen was wrong in her views about Russia-Ukraine issues. "If Le Pen understands that she has made a mistake, our relationship could change," Zelensky said.

Le Pen, who prior to the war had been an open admirer of Putin, has said that as president she would block European sanctions on Russian oil and gas. The far-right candidate has also said that if she is president, France would once again leave NATO military command and has called for a Russia-NATO "rapprochement".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)