TIME Foreign Policy

White House: EU, US to Impose New Russia Sanctions

(WASHINGTON) — The United States and European Union plan to impose new sanctions against Russia this week, including penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy, the White House said Monday.

The show of Western solidarity comes as the U.S. accuses Russia of ramping up its troop presence on its border with Ukraine and shipping more heavy weaponry to pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukrainian cities.

President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Italy discussed the crisis during a rare joint video teleconference on Monday. The discussion follows days of bilateral talks on how to implement tougher sanctions after the downing of a passenger jet in eastern Ukraine, an attack the U.S. says was carried out by the separatists.

The U.S. and European sanctions are likely to target Russia’s energy, arms and financial sectors. The EU is also weighing the prospect of levying penalties on individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appears to only be deepening Russia’s role in destabilizing Ukraine.

“It’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures, and that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week,” said Tony Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Europe, which has a stronger trade relationship with Russia than the U.S., has lagged behind Washington with its earlier sanctions package, in part out of concern from leaders that the penalties could have a negative impact on their own economies. But a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said following Monday’s call that the West agreed that the EU should move a “strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible.”

French President Francois Hollande said in a statement that the Western leaders “regretted Russia has not effectively pressured separatists to bring them to negotiate nor taken expected concrete measures to assure control of the Russian-Ukrainian border.”

The U.S. penalties are expected to be imposed after Europe finalizes its next moves. Neither set of penalties is expected to fully cut off Russian economic sectors from the West, an options U.S. officials have said they’re holding in reserve in case Russia launches a full-on military incursion in Ukraine or takes a similarly provocative step.

As the West presses ahead with new sanctions, U.S. officials say Russia is getting more directly involved in the clash between separatists and the Ukrainian government. Blinken said Russia appeared to be using the international attention focused on the downed Malaysia Airlines plane as “cover and distraction” while it moves more heavy weaponry over its border and into Ukraine.

“We’ve seen a significant re-buildup of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peace-keeping intervention in Ukraine,” Blinken said. “So there’s urgency to arresting this.”

Nearly 300 people were killed when the Malaysian plane was shot down by a missile on July 17. The West blames the separatists for the missile attack and Russia for supplying the rebels with equipment that can take down a plane.

Other leaders participating in Monday’s call were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The White House said the leaders also discussed the stalled efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the need for Iraq to form a more inclusive government and the uptick in security threats in Libya.

TIME Cycling

Tour de France: Determination, Dirt and Damage

With the world's most epic cycling competition concluding Sunday with Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali victorious, TIME takes a look back at the monthlong contest with a photo from every day of the race.

TIME Photos

Feel Good Friday: 14 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From inflatable toads to Taiwanese "frog men," here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME Algeria

Air Algérie Flight Disappears Over Mali With Over 110 Aboard

France's Foreign Minister said Flight AH5017 "probably crashed"

+ READ ARTICLE

Air Algérie said Thursday it lost contact during the night with an Algiers-bound flight from Burkina Faso carrying more than 110 people.

The Algerian national airliner said in a statement to the Algerian news agency APS that the flight, AH5017, took off from Ouagadougou at 1:17 a.m. GMT and was supposed to land in Algiers at 5:11. But the airline lost contact with the plane about 50 minutes into the flight, though the exact timing remains unclear amid differing reports.

Heather Jones for TIME

French President François Hollande, who cancelled his planned trip to the French island Réunion, said in a televised address that 51 French citizens were on the flight ahead of a connection in Algiers. In his statement, which followed an emergency meeting with top ministers, he said that “everything suggests that this plane crashed.”

He said that France, which has spearheaded an international military intervention in Mali against Islamic extremists in the north of the country, will deploy “all the military means that we have on location in Mali” to find the plane.

The French President said that at 1:48 a.m. the crew signaled that it was changing its route because of particularly difficult weather conditions. A Twitter account that appears to belong to the Algerian airline said in a tweet that the plane would have crashed in the region of Tilemsi about 70 km (43 miles) from the city of Gao in northern Mali.

The airline told APS early Thursday that the plane was carrying 119 passengers and 7 crewmembers of Spanish nationality, though officials have provided slightly varying numbers. In a separate statement, Swiftair, the Spanish private airline company that owns the plane, said that the plane was carrying 116 people, including 110 passengers and 6 crewmembers. Swiftair said the plane was an MD-83 operated by Air Algeria.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that 51 French citizens were on the flight. The Twitter account that appears to belong to the Algerian airline said in a tweet that there were also passengers from at least 13 other countries, and an Air Algérie representative told reporters in Burkino Faso that all of the passengers on the plane were in transit, according to Reuters.

The plane disappeared in rough weather over Mali. Data from weather satellites show that there may have been storms in the plane’s flightpath:

 

TIME Nuclear Talks

Kerry, Top Iranian Diplomat to Hold In-Depth Talks Over Nuclear Negotiations

From left: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during talks between the foreign ministers of the six powers negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear program, in Vienna, on July 13, 2014.
From left: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during talks between the foreign ministers of the six powers negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear program, in Vienna, on July 13, 2014. Jim Bourg—AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry will hold in-depth discussions Monday with Iran's top diplomat in a bid to advance faltering nuclear negotiations.

(VIENNA) — Secretary of State John Kerry will hold in-depth discussions Monday with Iran’s top diplomat in a bid to advance faltering nuclear negotiations, with a deadline just days away for a comprehensive agreement.

The scheduled talks come a day after Kerry and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany failed to reach a breakthrough on uranium enrichment and other issues standing in the way of a deal that would curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the end of nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran.

The top officials took turns meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, and each gave an assessment describing significant gaps between the two sides. Russia and China sent lower-level officials to Austria’s capital for this week’s gathering.

Six months ago, the six world powers and Tehran gave themselves until July 20 to conclude what is supposed to be a multi-decade agreement that sets clear limits on Iranian activity and locks in place an international monitoring regime designed to ensure that the Islamic republic cannot develop nuclear weapons.

But the interim agreement also provides the option of an additional six-month window for hammering out a full accord, though officials have suggested a shorter extension may be agreed upon.

Kerry’s second day of talks will continue his efforts to gauge “Iran’s willingness to make the critical choices it needs to make,” according to a senior State Department official.

The official didn’t say how long Kerry’s discussions with Zarif would run, but indicated a “potentially lengthy conversation” lay ahead. The official wasn’t authorized to be quoted by name and demanded anonymity.

On Sunday, British Foreign Minister William Hague said no breakthrough had been reached. But Kerry said he was not giving up.

“We’re working, we’re working, we just got here,” said Kerry, chiding reporters asking about progress as the day’s meetings wound down.

Zarif said no problems had been resolved “but I think we have made some important headway.”

Iran says it needs to expand enrichment to make reactor fuel and insists it does not want atomic arms. But the U.S. and others fear Tehran could steer the activity toward manufacturing the core of nuclear missiles. Washington is leading the charge for deep Iranian enrichment cuts.

Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier and France’s Laurent Fabius left Sunday, a few hours after they arrived. But Hague joined Kerry in staying on for another day.

The show of Western unity notwithstanding, Kerry’s presence was most important. With the most significant disputes between Washington and Tehran, his visit gave him a chance to discuss them directly with Zarif.

Both face difficult internal pressures.

Iranian hardliners oppose almost any concession by moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s government. In the U.S., Republicans and Democrats have threatened to scuttle any emerging agreement because it would allow Iran to maintain some enrichment capacity.

Outside the negotiations, regional rivals of Iran, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, are extremely skeptical of any arrangement they feel would allow the Islamic republic to escape international pressure while moving closer to the nuclear club.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi suggested any extension would be relatively short, saying “there is not much willingness” by either side to go a full six months. He, too, spoke Sunday of “huge and deep differences.”

TIME Music

Renowned Conductor Lorin Maazel Dies Age 84

Lorin Maazel conducts New York Philharmonic in Brahms's "Symphony No.4" at Avery Fisher Hall on Jan. 30, 2008.
Lorin Maazel conducts New York Philharmonic in Brahms's "Symphony No.4" at Avery Fisher Hall on Jan. 30, 2008. Hiroyuki Ito—Getty Images

Sometimes controversial figure toured North Korea with the New York Philharmonic in 2008

Lorin Maazel, the renowned conductor who held premier positions at some of the world’s top orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, died on Sunday at his home in the U.S.

Maazel, a colossal figure in classical music, had also been the music director of the Vienna State Opera among other famed orchestras and ensembles in his decades-long career, reports the BBC. His tenure at the New York Philharmonic included a highly publicized tour of North Korea in 2008.

The cause of death was complications from pneumonia, according to the Castleton Festival, a summer workshop for young musicians founded by Maazel and his wife in 2009. Maazel had been at home in Virginia rehearsing for the annual festival when he passed. He was 84.

Maazel, born in France in 1930, was a child prodigy who as a teenager guest-conducted prestigious orchestras throughout North America, starting a career that would include conducting more than 150 ensembles in at least 5,000 performances, according to the Castleton Festival.

Known to perform without a score, Maazel was at times a controversial figure, delivering recitals that could be highly studied and rote, but other times intensely personal and dramatic, reports the New York Times.

Maazel was also a composer, including of an opera based on George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. His interpretation premiered at the Royal Opera House in London and went on to have a sold-out revival at La Scala, Milan, according to the Castleton Festival.

[BBC]

TIME France

French Terror Suspect ‘Plotted Bombing the Eiffel Tower and Louvre’

The words "With the Syrians" are displayed on the Eiffel Tower in support of Syrians on the third anniversary of the conflict, in Paris
The words "With the Syrians" are displayed on the Eiffel Tower in Paris on March 15, 2014, in support of Syrians on the third anniversary of the conflict that has claimed more than 140,000 lives. On July 9, 2014, French police revealed transcripts of encrypted messages from a French jihadist who planned to target the Eiffel Tower and other French landmarks. Benoit Tessier—Reuters

Revelations come as France's Interior Minister attempts to build support for a controversial antiterrorism bill

A French jihadist was plotting to bomb renowned Paris tourist attractions such as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, according to intercepted messages he sent al-Qaeda operatives revealed on Wednesday.

A 29-year-old butcher of Algerian descent, only known as Ali M, was sending encrypted emails to a senior member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) for over a year, reports the French daily Le Parisien.

When Ali M was asked how he would “conduct jihad in the place you are currently,” he suggested targeting nuclear power plants, several landmarks including the Eiffel Tower and “cultural events that take place in the south of France in which thousands of Christians gather for a month,” the Telegraph reports.

“The main walkways become black with people and a simple grenade can injure dozens of people, not to mention a booby-trapped device,” he said.

AQIM suggested that the butcher receive training in military techniques in the desert of southern Algeria prior to undertaking the attacks, but French officers detained him in June 2013, one week before his planned departure. Authorities then set about decoding the encrypted messages.

Ali M’s lawyer, Daphne Pugliesi, told Le Parisien that the butcher had been recruited and brainwashed by AQIM and that his “arrest has been a relief for him.” Ali M is still detained and awaiting trial for “criminal association,” according to France 24.

The transcripts were revealed as France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve attempts to build support for controversial new antiterrorism legislation that would prevent French nationals from traveling abroad if they are suspected of joining the wars in Syria or Iraq. The bill would also crack down on jihad-recruitment efforts online.

Authorities say that 800 French nationals have already gone to Syria since the start of the conflict in March 2011; many have either returned to France or are planning to do so in the future, Radio France Internationale reports.

TIME Travel

Paris: What to See and What To Skip

FRANCE-PARIS-MOON-FEATURE
The Eiffel Tower in Paris on Feb. 13, 2014. Ludovic Marin—AFP/Getty Images

Tourists have long cherished Paris’s spectacularly preserved traditions and history, from its Napoleonic architecture and wrought iron bridges over the Seine River, to the dozens of artisanal chocolatiers and cheese-makers who can describe their products with passion and precision.

All that is still there and it wows millions of visitors every year. But now a new generation of Parisians, whose cultural references come as much from Manhattan as Molière, is ripping up the city’s old-world conservatism and experimenting with entirely new ways of eating and living. And for those of us who live in Paris, it’s a hugely welcome change.

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Young couple looking at map on Alexandre III bridge in Paris, France. Jean Luc Morales—Getty Images

Call it le backlash.

For those who have already visited Paris, now is a good time to return. This time, consider skipping the Louvre and hitting the streets. One counter-intuitive rule of thumb about what’s new in the city is to choose places that use English to advertise their hipness; for many Parisians, it’s a not-so subtle dig at their old-fashioned French-centric upbringing. Hence, ‘le popup’ and ‘le speakeasy’ signal new, interesting places to shop and eat. Both have proliferated recently on the trendier Right Bank side of the Seine. (That’s right, the right bank is the hip side now.)

The new speakeasy Blind Pig, which is set to open on June 24 in the Marais neighborhood, promises in its announcement that it will offer “charme brooklynien,” no translation needed. There will be no maestro in residence in the kitchen, but rather a revolving cast of fast-food chefs who have taken French cuisine’s attention to detail and freshness and tweaked it to reflect a far more casual, experimental era. “Just as Paris has influenced other major world cities with its bistros, so the Anglo-Saxon world has truly inspired Paris,” says Alexandre Cammas, founder and president of the French online magazine and guide Le Fooding, which now holds events in New York too.

Cammas says Paris eating has drastically transformed since a decade ago, when it was “frozen” in place, with hundreds of cookie-cutter bistros and brasseries offering dishes that have not evolved in decades. Tourists still pack the better known among those establishments every night, perhaps for lack of knowing where else to go, or because their sentimental literary history lures the romantics back time and again. Cammas’ advice (in saltier language) is, save your money for new eateries where you will meet locals, not other tourists. In addition, the service is likely to be far friendlier than the tourist haunts, which tend to feature surly responses from waiters who know they will likely never see you again.

Far different from the myth, Parisians do in fact walk the streets in sneakers, and eat while doing so too. “Paris has places for chic, gentrified, fast food that proves that street food can be really delicious,” Cammas says Since wandering the old alleyways and majestic avenues in any case the richest visual experience Paris can offer, you can now combine that with sampling excellent French food on the go.

François Flohic—Courtesy of Septime

On weekdays, try Chez Aline, which is situated in a former horse butcher and now prepares gourmet lunch boxes, or gourmet kebabs from Grillé, near the Paris Opéra. For those who cannot snag a reservation at the high-end restaurant Frenchie, run by chef Grégory Marchand (formerly at the Gramercy Tavern in New York), it now has a takeout section nearby called Frenchie To Go (in English, bien sur). And for indoor dining, Cammas recommends the neo-bistros Chateaubriand and Septime.

But perhaps the best way of all to sample traditional and new French cuisine is in city’s many superb open-air markets. The all-organic Sunday market on the Left Bank’s Boulevard Raspail attracts hundreds of tourists as well as chefs and foodie Parisians. There you can sample individual shucked oysters, wines, saucisson, bite-sized tartelettes, fresh-from-the-farm produce, or dishes prepared in the market, including soups and paella. Then fill your bag and head to the nearby Luxembourg Gardens or the river to picnic.

Bicycle And Electric Car-Sharing Schemes Ahead Of Paris Mayoral Election
Velib’ bicycles in Paris on March 13, 2014. Balint Porneczi—Bloomberg/Getty Images

To work off all this eating, hop on a Vélib bicycle. Paris’s share-bike system began in 2007 as one of the world’s first, and there are now about 20,000 bicycles at stations across the city, including on the riverbank itself—a not-to-be-missed new Paris destination. Since the Vélibs are part of Paris’s public transportation system it costs roughly the same as a metro ride.

Flow Restaurant Guillaume Leroux—Courtesy of Flow

One year ago, Paris closed its Left Bank river-level road to traffic, and now “les berges,” as the 2.3-kilometer (1.43 miles) path is known, is one of the city’s most dynamic spots, no matter the weather. You can cycle, run, rollerblade, picnic, play chess, watch skate-dancing, and from midday to midnight you can also sink into one of the orange deck chairs at the new Flow restaurant with a bottle of rosé, and watch the passing spectacle. You can even learn how to garden, draw graffiti on the chalkboard wall, take kickboxing or swing-dancing lessons, and for kids there are fencing and boxing lessons, wall-climbing and labyrinths. Check the daily program online.

FRANCE-PARIS-TOURISM
A woman enjoys the sunny weather near the Louvre Museum pyramid in Paris on May 16, 2014. Patrick Kovarik—AFP/Getty Images

Finally, if you cannot imagine a trip to Paris without visiting its great museums, you can now begin at the Louvre Museum at the eastern limit of Les Berges, and then walk, run, cycle or skate along the water westwards, emerging at the Quai Branly Museum, with its extraordinary collection of emerging-world artifacts and art.

Le eating:

  • Chez Aline: 85 Rue de la Roquette, Paris 11. Tel: 01.43.71.90.75. Open weekdays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Sat and Sun.
  • Grillé: 15, rue Saint-Augustin, Paris 2. Tel: 01.42.96.10.64. Open weekdays 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Closed Sat and Sun.
  • Frenchie restaurant: 6 Rue du Nil, Paris 2. Tel: 01.40.39.96.19. Open weeknights only. Two seatings at 7 p.m. and 9.30 p.m.
  • Frenchie to Go: 9 Rue du Nil, Paris 2. Weekdays 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Sat and Sun: 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
  • Chateaubriand: 129 Avenue de Parmentier, Paris 11. Tel: 01.43.57.45.95
  • Septime: 80 Rue de Charonne, Paris 11. Tel: 01.43.67.38.29. www.septime-charonne.fr
  • Boulevard Raspail market, Paris 6: Between Rue Cherche-Midi and Rue de Rennes: Non-organic food on Tuesday and Friday 7 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. All-organic food on Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market also has clothes, jewelry, cosmetics and wooden toys. http://www.mairie6.paris.fr/mairie6/jsp/site/Portal.jsp?page_id=39

 

Le seeing and doing:

  • Vélib bikes: Check map of depots, and buy a 1-day ticket (€1.70) or a 7-day ticket (€8).
  • Les Berges river path: Access from the Left Bank quais or bridges between Place de la Concorde and the Eiffel Tower.
  • Flow: on Les Berges near the Alexandre III Bridge, Paris 7. Tel: 01.45.51.49.51. Open 12 noon to 12 midnight.
  • Louvre Museum: 162 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (or 9.45 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday). Closed Tuesday. €12 entrance. Book ahead and skip the long lines.
  • Quai Branly Museum: 37 Quai Branly, Paris 7. €9 entrance. Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Monday.

Les no-no’s:

  • Stay away from large bistros which attract hordes of tourists, and whose menus have not changed in years.
  • If you are physically mobile avoid taxis, which are fiercely expensive and often unavailable. You are usually a few blocks from a métro or Vélib station.
  • Use your Paris guidebook with great caution, allowing it to tell you only about famous buildings and sites, and not where to eat, drink, or shop. For that, follow Parisian blogs.
  • Do not feel obligated to spend your time visiting the Louvre and Orsay Museums, or the Eiffel Tower. Indeed, sadly Parisians themselves rarely do. There is a wealth of art and history to be seen simply by walking the streets of central Paris, and for a bird’s eye view of Paris, take the elevator to the top of the Montparnasse Tower in Paris 5.
TIME Sports

Crepes vs. Bratwurst: World Cup Matches Reimagined With Food

Soccer has never looked so delicious

The World Cup isn’t just about soccer or athleticism — it’s about bringing people together and taking pride in one’s country and culture, right? To emphasize that part of the event, artist George Zisiadis decided to focus on one key part of culture: food.

He chose one popular dish from several different nations — mussels and fries for Belgium, acarajé for Brazil, and so on — and then combined them.

“Rather than focus on its adversarial nature, I wanted to playfully re-imagine the World Cup and celebrate how it brings cultures together,” Zisiadis told Mashable. “Just like futbol, food also represents nationalities and brings people together.”

George Zisiadis
George Zisiadis
George Zisiadis
George Zisiadis
George Zisiadis
George Zisiadis

Head over to Zisiadis’s website to see more World Cup food pairings.

TIME France

France’s Far Right Could Benefit From Sarkozy’s Legal Woes

Nicolas Sarkozy
Sarkozy's legal cloud puts his political future in doubt Kenzo Tribouillard—AFP/Getty Images

The former French President is under investigation, putting his political future under a cloud—and giving Marine Le Pen an opening

Even in a country where political scandals are a constant, the French were stunned to see their former President Nicolas Sarkozy hauled into a police station on July 1 for 15 hours of interrogation. Sarkozy was brought before judges well after midnight that day, where he was formally placed under investigation for corruption and influence peddling, relating to suspicions that Sarkozy had tried to wrest information from a senior judge about a legal case being built against him. An exhausted-looking Sarkozy was shown on television in the back of a police car, clearly shaken by his ordeal. “Is this normal?” Sarkozy asked in a national television and radio interview on the evening of July 2—his first such Q&A in two years—that had millions of viewers spellbound. “I’m profoundly shocked at what has happened.”

But besides his shock, Sarkozy, who lost his reelection bid to President François Hollande in 2012, might already be plotting his next political move—a move that could involve casting himself as the victim rather than the villain in his latest legal drama. As the French absorbed the newest accusations against Sarkozy, the ex-president has emerged in this week’s blanket media coverage as a lone wolf up against the establishment. That’s an ironic twist for a politician whose image as the consummate insider partly led to his reelection defeat. Two days after Sarkozy’s 15-hour police grilling, Sarkozy watchers say they believe he has several options ahead—not all of them bad. “He could become chief of the opposition in fighting both Hollande and the judges,” Christophe Barbier, editor of the French newsweekly L’Express, told TIME on Thursday. “That seems the most probable solution.”

Sarkozy has faced so many investigations since winning the presidency in 2007 that he and his lawyer had tried to avoid surveillance by using prepaid telephones registered in other people’s names. Police tapped those phones, however, leading them to focus on whether the two men tried to wrangle details about the case against Sarkozy from a top appeals-court judge—the subject of his grilling on Tuesday. The charges could lead judges to bring the case to trial, with Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog potentially facing a five-year sentence and a $680,000 fine if found guilty. To say the least, that would hugely complicate Sarkozy’s ambitions for a comeback against the beleaguered President Hollande in the 2017 elections.

Even if the former president beats this new investigation, however, it is not his only legal battle. Last year, investigators finally dropped charges alleging that Sarkozy took advantage of the aging billionaire L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt by taking millions of euros from her to fund his 2007 presidential bid. But they are still probing allegations that Sarkozy sought some $68 million for his 2007 campaign from then-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi—the investigation in which he is now suspected of interfering with the senior judge.

But this week’s grilling cuts to the heart of a deeper issue, and it is one that rankles French voters: whether the alleged behavior of Sarkozy was just business as usual for the country’s famously cloistered elites. It could be “simply part of the bullying tactics of people in power that have been tolerated so far,” says Agnès Poirier, author and columnist for the political magazine Marianne, writing in the Guardian on Wednesday. Sarkozy, says Poirier, has regularly demanded information from officials about investigations against him, including once calling the head of the French intelligence service. “If nothing else, this new episode is shedding some more light on “‘le système Sarkozy,'” Poirier said.

Still, Sarkozy is hardly ready to hang it up politically. After laying low for Hollande’s first year in office, he has spent months angling for a return, and has said he intends deciding his next moves—including a possible presidential bid—by summer’s end. Enraged and combative on television on Wednesday night, Sarkozy nonetheless worked hard to dismantle the image of himself as someone accustomed to special access. He called the new charges “grotesque,” but quickly added, “I’m not demanding any privilege.” His voice dropping to a low rasp, he said, “If I have made mistakes I will face the consequences.”

Yet some of the consequences of Sarkozy’s legal battles are already contributing to the deep disarray of French politics. Sarkozy fares much better than President Hollande in most polls, and the former president is popular among many UMP voters, with supporters mobbing him on the sidewalk after his interrogation on Tuesday. Yet the UMP is locked in its own struggle for power. Jean-Francois Copé was appointed as leader only after bitter infighting. Since he resigned in May three former prime ministers have been running the party in an awkward, interim arrangement, as they wait to see what Sarkozy will do.

In fact, there is only one clear winner in this political upheaval: Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, which won the most French votes in the European Union elections in May, and which grabbed nearly one-quarter of the votes in France’s municipal elections last March, largely by slicing off support by disaffected UMP-ers. Pitching the two major parties as corrupt and ineffectual, Le Pen has soared in the polls. She told TIME in May that she believes she is headed for the top, that she intends running for president and that she believes that “the National Front will be in power within 10 years.”

Barbier, editor of L’Express, believes that much will depend on whether Sarkozy can cast himself as a new man: calm and reflective, rather than the volatile, temperamental man the French remember from his time in office. “If he is more calm, more tranquil, if he goes into it in that style,” Sarkozy could perhaps prevail, Barbier says. He believes Sarkozy’s first move might be to take back control of the UMP, and knock it into shape, ready for the presidential race in 2017.

Sarkozy’s makeover might already have begun. After a mostly combative TV interview on Wednesday night the former president struck a more conciliatory tone afterwards, tweeting: “I love my country passionately and I am not a man to be discouraged.” His supporters hope that passion and tenacity will be enough to carry their man through.

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