President Vladimir Putin met French far-right party leader Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin on Friday, handing her a potential boost to her campaign to win next month's presidential election in France.
Putin told Le Pen Moscow reserved the right to meet any French politician it wanted and that she represented "quite a fast-growing element of European political forces."
"Of course I know that the election campaign in France is actively developing," said Putin. "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."
A meeting with Putin is a coup for Le Pen and could help her burnish her foreign policy credentials. While increasingly popular in France, she has struggled to get any backing abroad apart from support offered by other far-right parties.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told reporters on a conference call that Putin and Le Pen had not discussed the possibility of Russia offering any financial help to her political party.