Putin meets Le Pen, denies French election interference
Russian President Vladimir Putin made his preferences in the French presidential election clear by hosting far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin, but analysts are skeptical about Russia's ability to sway the outcome of the vote.
Embracing Le Pen is part of Russia's efforts to reach out to nationalist and anti-globalist forces to build up its influence in the West and help overcome the strains in relations with the U.S. and the European Union.
Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential vote has emboldened the Kremlin, even though the ongoing U.S. Congressional scrutiny of his campaign ties with Russia has all but dashed Moscow's hopes for a quick detente.
U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Moscow of hacking to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.
During Friday's meeting with National Front leader Le Pen, Putin insisted that Russia has no intention of meddling in the French election and only wants to have a dialogue with a variety of politicians.