Vladimir Putin wished leader 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 on Friday.
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 Britain’s 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 for the presidential election."
"We felt they understood each other, they were on the same wave length," he told Reuters from Moscow.
Ms Le Pen, who is an admirer of Mr Putin, is polling to reach the runoff 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.
The Russian president said Moscow could meet any French politician it wanted and that Ms Le Pen represented "quite a fast-growing element of European political forces,” according to his spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
"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 to help Mr Trump win.
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 any financial help to her political party, according to Mr Peskov. Her party took a €9 million (£7.8m) loan from a Moscow-based bank in 2014, and is actively seeking new sources of funding.
According to Le Canard Enchaîné, the French investigative and satirical weekly, Mike Turner, a Republican on the House of Representatives' permanent select committee on intelligence, in December urged the US director of national intelligence to look into Ms Le Pen's Russia links.
After the meeting, Ms Le Pen said she would reflect on how to swiftly lift European Union sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine crisis if elected. Russia and France should unite to fight global terrorism, she added.
Ms Le Pen is scathing of German chancellor Angela Merkel, and dubbed Mr Macron her “vassal” for travelling to Berlin to meet her last week. Mr Danne said: "Macron-Merkel it's the declining establishment, Le Pen and Putin represent the freedom of the people, cooperation in a multi-polar world."
"With Donald Trump to the West, and Vladimir Putin to the East, Marine Le Pen clearly appears to be the least isolated of the presidential candidates," claimed FN secretary general, Nicolas Bay.
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