July 26, 2021

Discreet return to France of a Napoleonic general who died in Russia

The date owes nothing to chance. Found two years ago in the region of Smolensk, in Russia, it is in this bicentenary year of Napoleon’s death that the remains of Charles Etienne Gudin, one of the Emperor’s generals, who died in 1812 during the campaign. from Russia, was to be repatriated to France on Tuesday July 13. A specially chartered Airbus A320 was to land in the early afternoon at Le Bourget airport in a prestigious operation financed by Russian billionaire Andrei Kozitsyn. A minimal celebration organized after much controversy.

In Moscow, it was the military attaché of the French embassy who was to lead the departure ceremony. Forty extras dressed as Empire grunts were expected to welcome the procession in the company of the Russian National Guard fanfare. Horses then had to pull a carriage carrying the remains to the plane chartered for the flight. At Le Bourget, the remains were to be received by the Minister Delegate in charge of memory and veterans, Geneviève Darrieussecq, in a protocol while restraint and discretion, even if the latter promises some announcements.

We are far from the pomp imagined in recent months by the sulphurous character behind the operation: Pierre Malinowski, a self-taught man better known for his proximity to Jean-Marie Le Pen than for his historical works. Originally, in his mind at least, it was a question of making the return of the deceased general a pretext for a meeting between the Russian president, Vladimir Poutine, and Emmanuel Macron, at the end of a ceremony taking place at the Invalides. , where the Napoleonic figure could have been buried. The reputation of this close friend of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who boasts of having entered the Kremlin, has not helped, despite the attentive ear first found in the entourage of the Head of State French, in particular from his advisor for memory issues, the former journalist Bruno Roger-Petit.

The return of General Gudin was also telescoped by the harsh geopolitical realities of the moment. The deterioration of bilateral relations has given rise to the idea of ​​paying homage to the service of rapprochement between France and Russia. The “dialogue” initiated by Emmanuel Macron with Vladimir Poutine, since his visit to Fort Brégançon in August 2019, has reached an impasse. The poisoning, last summer, of the Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny in Novichok, attributed to the Russian services, followed by his imprisonment, the military tensions in Ukraine and in Syria ended up compromising a meeting between the two presidents.

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