Moscow will not meddle in French poll, Putin pledges
Russian President Vladimir Putin has held a surprise meeting with France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, but dismissed suggestions that Moscow will influence the French election in her favour.
They met hours after a previously announced visit to the lower house of the Russian parliament.
In the meeting with members of the Duma, Ms Le Pen urged Russia and France to work together to save the world from globalism and Islamic fundamentalism.
Such positions put her in parallel with Kremlin stances and there has been wide speculation that Russia aims to influence the upcoming French election.
Mr Putin said: "We in no way want to influence events, but retain for ourselves the right to meet with all representatives of all political powers, just as our partners in Europe and the United States do."
France's two-round presidential election takes place on April 23 and May 7.