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Marine Le Pen Presidential election 2017 Russia

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National Front leader Le Pen meets with Putin in Moscow

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Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with French presidential election candidate for the far-right National Front party Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 24, 2017. Mikhail Klimentyev/ SPUTNIK / AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Marine Le Pen during a visit to Moscow on Friday by the French far-right presidential candidate, Russian state television showed.
 


"We by no means want to influence the current events but we reserve the right to communicate with all representatives of all political forces of the country, as do our partners in Europe and the United States for example," Interfax news agency quoted Putin as telling Le Pen.

"I know that you represent quite a fast-developing spectrum of European political forces."

Putin's meeting with Le Pen was not announced this week when the Russian parliament confirmed that the National Front leader would be visiting Moscow on Friday to meet with lawmakers.

Earlier Friday, Le Pen met Russian parliamentary speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, calling for increasing cooperation with Russia in the fight against "terrorism".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday said Le Pen was not a "populist" but a "realist or anti-globalist" figure.

Foreign affairs committee head Leonid Slutsky told Russian media Le Pen's visit stemmed from a "personal invitation".

Marine Le Pen has visited Moscow on many occasions, enjoying positive Russian state media coverage.

She is among the European politicians who have called for closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and approved of Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

In 2014, the National Front received a nine-million-euro loan from a Russian commercial bank which later collapsed, fuelling suspicions that Le Pen is on the Kremlin's payroll.

Her party said at the time that French banks had refused to lend it any money.

Moscow has been accused of seeking to promote anti-EU candidates, including populists, in European elections.

Last year, the Kremlin welcomed both the outcome of Britain's Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump as US president.