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This Is What Happened When Marine Le Pen Went To Moscow

The French far-right leader cut short her scheduled program — and then met Russian President Vladimir Putin just one month before the French election.

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As leader of the National Front, Le Pen has publicly praised Putin, taken a loan from a Russian bank for the party, and is one of the few European politicians who approved of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

1 month before French Presidental Elections: #LePen meets with #Putin https://t.co/byBi1ei1S5

But why was Le Pen in Moscow on Friday? She was invited there by Leonid Slutsky, the head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's lower house of the parliament, or Duma. Slutsky is also on the US sanctions list.

Marine Le Pen gets a kiss from Slutsky, foreign affairs committee head, during her visit to the Russian parliament.… https://t.co/fGHMq5FaNM

And then Le Pen seemed to disappear.

We turned up for the Le Pen press briefing at the Russian parliament. Sadly, she didn't.

Oh there she is! The story in Moscow was that Le Pen hopped out to see an exhibit of French gothic art at the Kremlin and — voila! — there she ran into President Vladimir Putin.

Mikhail Klimentyev / AFP / Getty Images

Putin reportedly told Le Pen that Russia had no intentions to influence the upcoming French election. "We don't want to influence in any way the events going on [in France], but reserve our right to communicate with all representatives of the country's political powers, as our partners do in Europe and in the US," Putin said.

Le Pen's visit to Moscow comes just a month before the hotly contested French presidential election.

The National Front has previously taken a loan from a Russian bank, but officials from the party and Putin’s spokesman said this trip was not a cash-raising exercise.

In 2014, Le Pen's National Front received a $9.7 million loan from Russian bank FCRB, which had raised concerns over Moscow's potential influence on her and her party. But last year the bank went bust and since then, the Russian deposit agency has been trying legal ways to recover the bank's loans. But it's unclear if Russian officials have specifically discussed the repayment of loans given to National Front with Le Pen.

Putin's spokesperson also said the two leaders didn't discuss financing of the party.

Le Pen also managed to run into extremely anti-gay Russian Duma member Vitaly Milonov, who posted a selfie of the two of them to his Facebook page on Friday.

Facebook: milonov

Milonov was the key figure behind Russia's infamous "Anti-Gay Propaganda" law, which has led to an increased crackdown on LGBT activists, and has railed against gays in general as being "rapists of children."

"Marine Le Pen accepts dozens of selfies a day," Le Pen spokesperson Florian Philippot told BuzzFeed News. "She obviously does not know who the person is, nor does she know the identity of anyone she's photographed with."

Ludovic de Danne, Le Pen's foreign affairs advisor who was also on the trip, added that she "can only be judged for her official meetings."

Le Pen currently trails centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, whose supporters have accused Russian hackers of being responsible for attacks against their campaign websites.

Eric Feferberg / AFP / Getty Images

Although Russia has denied any involvement, officials with Macron's campaign have accused state-sponsored Russian outlets like RT and Sputnik of publishing false reports aimed at undermining his candidacy.

In a statement provided to BuzzFeed News after this article's publication, RT denied allegations that it has published such reports on Macron. "RT adamantly rejects any and all claims that it has any part in spreading fake news in general and in relation to Mr. Macron and the upcoming French election in particular. Furthermore, we are appalled that such baseless accusations are taking place on quotidian basis. Indeed, it seems that it has become acceptable to level such serious charges at RT without presenting any evidence to substantiate them, as well as to apply this ‘fake news’ label to any reporting that one might simply find unfavorable," the statement said.

Anup Kaphle is a deputy world editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London. His secure PGP fingerprint is AA69 A7F0 91A0 8CF9 F06A 8343 05EE 4615 8CD5 33D8.

Contact Anup Kaphle at anup.kaphle@buzzfeed.com.

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