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Marine Le Pen pays Putin a visit

President Vladimir Putin met with the leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, in the Kremlin on Friday, Reuters reported, “handing her a potential boost to her campaign to win next month’s presidential election in France”.

Published: March 25, 2017, 7:15 am

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    Le Pen was visiting Russia at the invitation of Leonid Slutsky, head of Russia’s lower house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee. This was her fourth trip to Moscow since 2011.

    The Russian president described his French guest as representing “quite a fast-growing element of European political forces”. He added that he did not want to influence political events in France in any way, but that Russia reserved the right to talk to all representatives in the political spectrum.

    “Of course I know that the election campaign in France is actively developing,” said Putin. The meeting is a bonus for Le Pen as it could help her increase her foreign policy credentials.

    Putin has been described as “the most powerful man in the world”, even by his opponents in a recent CNN documentary. “He represents a sovereign nation … a new vision … a new world,” Le Pen said in Moscow after her meeting with the Russian leader.

    Ludovic de Danne, Le Pen’s international advisor who took part in the meeting at the Kremlin, said: “He [Putin] wished her good luck for the presidential election.”

    Danne had noted earlier: “Macron-Merkel it’s the declining establishment, Le Pen and Putin represent the freedom of the people, cooperation in a multi-polar world.”

    “With Donald Trump to the West, and Vladimir Putin to the East, Marine Le Pen clearly appears to be the least isolated of the presidential candidates,” FN secretary general, Nicolas Bay remarked before the visit was announced.

    Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of Austria’s Freedom Party (FPO) travelled to Moscow before the Austrian election to sign a co-operation agreement with Sergei Zheleznyak, United Russia’s deputy leader who has been targeted by travel bans and asset freezes under EU sanctions.

    The Kremlin has meanwhile dismissed allegations that Russian media outlets are spreading “fake news” in an attempt to interfere in the French presidential race, as candidate Emmanuel Macron has suggested. Russia has also been accused of influencing the US election, but without proof.

    On Friday, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that Putin and Le Pen had not discussed Russia offering any financial help to her political party. The FN took a €9 million loan from a Moscow-based bank in 2014.

    The news agency Interfax released a report stating: “The Kremlin announces financing of Marine Le Pen’s election campaign by Russian banks,” but two minutes later corrected the news report: “Correction: Kremlin announces it has no information about the financing of Marine Le Pen’s election campaign by Russian banks.”

    According to Le Canard Enchaîné, the French satirical weekly, a Republican on the US House of Representatives’ permanent select committee on intelligence, in December urged the US director of national intelligence to look into Le Pen’s links to Russia.

    Mike Turner had asked the former Obama administration to obtain “more details” on “this vast campaign” destined to “wage an information war against the United States and other countries whose interests go against those of Russia”.

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