Marine Le Pen’s ties with Russia are once again being questioned.
Last month, the Front National (FN) leader met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, their first official meeting.
But Jean-Marie Le Pen, the estranged father of the FN’s leader, claimed that his daughter had already met Putin, a BBC journalist has revealed in an investigation FN’s funding.
It is worth noting that Le Pen and her father are not on good terms currently, after she kicked him out of the party he founded as part the “de-demonisation” project for her party.
During the interview in February, the BBC journalist described how he had joked to Le Pen that Putin was his friend, to which the former FN leader replied: “He’s not my friend. I’ve never met him. But he’s met Marine.”
Other people close to Le Pen told the BBC that she has herself claimed to have met the Russian President, and when asked about it, the FN MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser said: “This is a secret. There are little secrets, and this secret.”
Officially, however, Le Pen and the Kremlin both deny that the two ever met before her visit to Moscow last month.
Rumours about ties between the far-right French party and Russia circulating for years. They have intensified in recent months as the Kremlin is being accused of trying to interfere in the French presidential elections.
In 2014, FN received a €9 million (£7.7 million/$US10.6 million) loan from the First Czech Russian Bank, a small bank with ties to the Kremlin. A Russian hacking group published emails that appear to show that Le Pen’s party had received the loan as a payment for her pro-Russia stance during and after the Crimean annexation.
Many speculate that Le Pen was in Moscow to try to secure a new loan for her party, which is struggling financially. The party’s chief spokesperson, Wallerand de Saint-Just has denied those rumours. Le Pen was invited to Moscow by a Russian MP for meetings in the parliament.
The latest polls for the French elections show Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron are tied at 25% for the first round of the elections on April 23. Macron is expected to beat Le Pen 61% to 39% in the second round.
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