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Marine Le Pen looks to write off her links with Putin as French election battle looms

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Marine Le Pen has spoken out against Russia sanctions in the past. Photo Johanna Geron

Marine Le Pen has spoken out against Russia sanctions in the past. Photo Johanna Geron

Marine Le Pen has spoken out against Russia sanctions in the past. Photo Johanna Geron

French far-right party National Rally is attempting to prevent the circulation of 1.2 million election pamphlets featuring leader Marine Le Pen shaking hands with Vladimir Putin, according to local reports.

The eight-page leaflet includes a picture of the Russian president meeting Ms Le Pen in Moscow in 2017, together with the caption: “A woman of conviction.”

They were printed before Russia invaded Ukraine last week, which has been condemned by all the major political parties in France.

The pamphlets have already been distributed to National Rally’s departmental delegates, who have now been ordered to scrap them.

In the build-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ms Le Pen consistently downplayed the tensions between the two countries, saying she did not believe “at all” that the Russian military would invade.

Speaking last month, she described it as a “misunderstanding of the issues” in Russia and told reporters: “I don’t see what the Russians would do in Ukraine and what would be their interest there.”

Ms Le Pen was forced to backtrack on these previous comments by calling for an “immediate end” to the invasion. In a statement on her website she condemned it as “unjustifiable without reservations”, while making no mention of the close ties she has previously enjoyed with Russia.

During the 2017 presidential elections Ms Le Pen pledged to take a softer stance on Moscow if elected, and spoke out against economic sanctions imposed by the West.

The far-right party, previously known as Front National, has also benefited from financing from Russia after taking out a loan from a Russian bank in 2014 worth roughly €9m. A court settlement in 2020 revealed it will continue to be repaid until 2028.

A spokesperson for National Rally said Ms Le Pen had met with Mr Putin “as part of her 2017 campaign and as a potential future head of state”, but denied an order had been given to destroy pamphlets.

Ms Le Pen is one of two prominent far-right figures preparing to challenge French president Emmanuel Macron in the upcoming elections, with the first round set to take place next month.

Controversial candidate Eric Zemmour – who was convicted earlier this year for inciting racial hatred after describing unaccompanied migrant children as “rapists” and “murderers” – is ahead of Ms Le Pen in the latest polls.

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The Ifop-Fiducial poll placed Mr Macron on 25pc, Mr Zemmour on 16.5pc, and Ms Le Pen on 16pc. The incumbent is expected to win the second round run-off, as he did in 2017 against Ms Le Pen. (© Independent News Service)


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