French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist alliance was due on Saturday to launch off its campaign for European Parliament elections in the northern city of Lille, as he tries to curb the rapid rise of the far right and hammer home the importance of greater support for Ukraine.

The European elections are seen as a key milestone ahead of France's next presidential election in 2027, when far-right figurehead Marine Le Pen is expected to mount a fourth bid for the top job and Macron cannot stand again due to term limits.

Le Pen's National Rally (RN) party leads Macron's alliance by a wide margin in polls on the European elections in June, and members of the centrist alliance say privately that narrowing the gap will not be easy.

"The main subject will be support for Ukraine," the leader of Macron's Renaissance party in parliament, Sylvain Maillard, said on Friday of the campaign launch.

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Macron, who plans to join the campaign at a later stage, has asked his ministers to fight the RN "every step of the way" and has sought to cast Le Pen's forces as bedfellows of Russia.

"In an election which is taking place in a historic moment for our continent and our country, with the war at the gates of the European continent, the central question is 'Are we are voting for pro-European forces which want to strengthen Europe'," said Stanislas Guerini, a close Macron ally.

"That's us."

The French president has picked Valerie Hayer, the 37-year-old head of the Renew group in the European Parliament, to lead his camp in the polls.

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- Hot-button topic -

Hayer, who is relatively unknown to the French public, was expected to underline the "need for Europe," the official slogan of the campaign, and question the far-right's overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

By contrast, the head of the National Rally's list for the European elections is 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, a rising star of far-right French politics.

Bardella hammered on the far-right's central theme of immigration when the party launched its election campaign in the southern port of Marseille last weekend.

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In France's polarized political landscape, Russia's war against Ukraine has emerged as a major hot-button topic.

Last week Macron stunned many in Europe by refusing to rule out the dispatch of Western ground troops to Ukraine.

Members of the opposition accused the president of using the conflict to boost his coalition's standing ahead of the European elections.

Earlier this week, Bardella described Macron's stance on Ukraine as "no limits and no red lines".

He said he had pleaded with the French leader "not to go to war with Russia".

Some in Macron's camp have questioned the focus on Ukraine and the far-right.

A lawmaker with the centrist MoDem party, which is part of Macron's coalition, said that targeting the far-right party could backfire by further raising their profile.

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