Russian President Vladimir Putin held a surprise meeting on Friday with French presidential candidate and far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Moscow, one month before the France elections.
Responding to the concerns about Russia attempting to interfere in French elections, Putin said that the Kremlin has no intention of doing so. The Putin government has been accused of interfering in the US presidential elections last year and influencing Donald Trump's win.
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"We attach a lot of importance to our relations with France, trying to maintain smooth relations with both the acting power and the opposition representatives," state-controlled Russian media reported Putin as saying.
"We don't want to influence in any way the events going on [in France], but reserve our right to communicate with all representatives of the country's political powers, as our partners do in Europe and in the US," Putin said.
Front National (FN) leader Le Pen has previously said that she admires Putin as a leader. She also supports the lifting of the European Union's economic sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict, calling them "completely stupid" and the cause of "major problems for the EU".
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Opinion polls showed the FN chief getting through to the second decisive round of France's presidential election but eventually losing to the centralist candidate, Emmanuel Macron. The French presidential elections will begin on April 23, 2017, and will conclude on May 7, 2017.
Le Pen, at a meeting in Russia's lower house of parliament, called for closer French-Russian ties, and reiterated her take on EU sanctions against Russia, deeming them "counterproductive." She also called for Russia and France to unite and save the world from globalism and Islamic fundamentalism.
"I believe that barring parliamentarians from speaking to each other, working together is an infringement of democratic rights," Interfax reported Le Pen as saying to Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.
There have been reports of Le Pen's closer ties with Russia, similar to that of Trump's relations with his Russian counterpart. Le Pen's party reportedly took a €9m (£7.8m) loan from a Moscow-based bank in 2014 and is actively seeking new sources of funding.
The FN chief was also spotted at Trump Tower earlier this year. Trump Tower is US President Donald Trump's home in New York.
"A new world has emerged in these past years. It's the world of Vladimir Putin, it's the world of Donald Trump in the United States, it's the world of Mr (Narendra) Modi in India, and I think that probably I am the one who shares with these great nations a vision of cooperation and not a vision of submission," Le Pen said.