In Moscow, France's Le Pen Calls For 'Strategic Cooperation' With Russia
Mar 25 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the "great importance" of ties between his country and France as he met French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin on Friday, Russian state-run news agency Tass reported.
Last year, Le Canard Enchaîné, the French satirical newspaper, reported that Mike Turner, a Republican on the US House of Representatives' permanent select committee on intelligence, had urged American intelligence agencies to look into Le Pen's Russian Federation connections.
The only French presidential candidate to meet with Putin, Le Pen is one of the front-runners in the French election.
The Front National treasurer, Wallerand de Saint-Just, has insisted Le Pen's visit is not a campaign fundraising exercise.
On March 23, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said allegations that Russian Federation was interfering in electoral processes in France and Germany as "absolutely fictional".
It is not clear whether Le Pen will meet with Vladimir Putin during her visit, which is her fourth to Russian Federation since 2011.
Le Pen's ties to Russian Federation have been subject to intense scrutiny.
The Kremlin also looks favourably on Ms Le Pen, a BBC correspondent says.
In 2014, Le Pen's National Front received a $9.7 million loan from Russian bank FCRB, which had raised concerns over Moscow's potential influence on her and her party.
"I know that you represent quite a fast-developing spectrum of European political forces", Putin added.
Le Pen's chances of winning have been aided by a scandal that has ensnared her opponent, Republican Party candidate Fillon.
"Military conflicts and attempts to evade them considerably cut the financial inflow into the economy and agriculture and that is why desperate youth is sometimes try joining terrorist organizations", she said.
"I've pleaded at every level for cooperation between our countries in the fight against terrorism", she added, invoking Russia's role in Syria, where it has supported the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and France's role fighting extremists in Africa's Sahel region.
Le Pen with Putin.
She openly backs his 2014 annexation of Crimea that prompted the European Union to impose sanctions. It was unclear whether she would meet Putin or senior government officials.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday said Le Pen was not a "populist" but a "realist or anti-globalist" figure.