Sarkozy's one-time prime minister cannot be accused of being a "Manchurian candidate" or of being on Putin's payroll. The pro-business French right has plenty of money of its own. Fillon has consistently backed Russia in Syria since 2012, saying Moscow could be instrumental in resolving the conflict and refraining from calling for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's removal until the Islamic State is defeated. In 2013, Fillon was a guest of the Valdai forum, which Putin and his foreign policy elite use to communicate Russia's policy views to Western experts; apart from calling for cooperation in Syria, he expressed hope that Europe would soon abolish short-term visas for Russia -- something that's not even on the agenda today.
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