Russian President Vladimir Putin reacts after peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 12, 2015.
Populist parties of both right and left, many pro-Russian, did well in last May's European elections, taking between them a quarter of the seats. This has raised fears of a coherent pro-Russian block forming in Strasbourg.
In Greece, the now-ruling radical-left Syriza party leans towards Russia. On February 11th Nikos Kotzias, the new foreign minister, went to Moscow--his first visit to a foreign capital outside the European Union.
Syriza is cool on sanctions against Russia, and opposed to expanding them. Another left-wing, broadly pro-Russian upstart is Podemos in Spain, which leads in the polls. Its leader has accused the West of double standards in dealing with Russia.
France's National Front, the foremost right-nationalist party, openly admires Mr Putin. Its leader, Marine Le Pen, has made several trips to Moscow.
It recently accepted a EUR 9.4m ($10.6m) loan from First Czech Russian Bank, a lender with indirect links to the Kremlin. It is said to be the first tranche of a EUR40m loan (a huge sum for the party, if true). Ms Le Pen says it was turned away by Western banks.
Hungary's far-right Jobbik party, which won 20% of the vote in parliamentary elections last April, is avowedly pro-Russian.
In 2013 its leader described Russia as the guardian of Europe's heritage, contrasting it with the "treacherous" EU.
Its most controversial figure, Bela Kovacs, a member of the European Parliament, has lobbied on behalf of Russian interests and supported the invasion of Crimea.
But Fidesz, Hungary's ruling party, once fiercely anti-communist, has also been cultivating closer Russian ties.
In July the prime minister, Viktor Orban, said he was striving to build "an illiberal state" within the EU.
There have also been rumours, less well substantiated, of Russian support for British and Italian parties, including the anti-EU UK Independence Party.
And UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage, has called Mr Putin the world leader he most admires--at least as a political operator.
There is, however, scant evidence that Europe's populist parties, FN apart, have accepted Russian money--though it is hard to be sure, given their opaque FINANCES. Anton Shekhotsov, an expert on fringe parties, thinks that the loan to the French party is the exception rather than the rule. He points out that the Kremlin, in the past at least, preferred to provide "fees" to individual politicians than financial support to their parties.
Russia has already found a use for its European friends: to legitimise (to some) its dodgy elections. A motley crew of populists were flown in to give ringing endorsements of the Crimea referendum and the election in the Donbas, organised by separatists. Among them were Mr Kovacs and Aymeric Chauprade, an adviser to Ms Le Pen. Russian media falsely portrayed these lackeys as official, independent election observers.