Saturday 16 December 2017

Putin wishes Le Pen 'good luck' on visit to Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 24, 2017. Le Pen has made multiple visits to Russia, as have her father, niece and other members of the National Front, often meeting with Russian legislators. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 24, 2017. Le Pen has made multiple visits to Russia, as have her father, niece and other members of the National Front, often meeting with Russian legislators. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Henry Samuel in Paris

Vladimir Putin wished Marine Le Pen "good luck" in a surprise meeting between the Russian president and the far-right leader a month before she runs in French presidential elections, an aide said yesterday.

The Kremlin insisted it had no intention of meddling in a foreign election.

Ms Le Pen will regard the meeting as a coup for her foreign policy credentials as to date the Front National leader has failed to arrange meetings with any leaders bar those from far-right parties, and claimed to have been snubbed by British Prime Minister Theresa May.

She also recently travelled to Trump Tower in New York but was not received by the American president.

Ludovic de Danne, Ms Le Pen's international advisor who took part in the meeting with Mr Putin, said: "He wished her good luck. We felt they understood each other, they were on the same wave length."

Ms Le Pen, who is an admirer of Mr Putin, is polling to reach the run-off in France's presidential election on May 7 but to lose to independent centrist Emmanuel Macron.

This was her fourth trip to Moscow since 2011.

Mr Putin said Moscow could meet any French politician it wanted and that Ms Le Pen represented "quite a fast-growing element of European political forces", spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "Of course I know that the election campaign in France is actively developing," Mr Putin added.

"We do not want to influence events in any way, but we reserve the right to talk to representatives of all the country's political forces."

The meeting suggests that Russia is not afraid to face criticism it is seeking to influence foreign elections, despite allegations by US intelligence agencies that it tried to interfere in the US presidential election.

Russia has denied trying to influence the US vote, and has also dismissed allegations that Kremlin-funded media outlets are spreading "fake news" in an attempt to interfere in the French presidential race.

The pair did not discuss the possibility of Russia offering financial help to her party, according to Mr Peskov. Her party took a €9m loan from a Moscow-based bank in 2014.

Irish Independent

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