Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, attends a meeting in a farm in La Trinite-Porhoet, France March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
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Russia looms large over France's presidential election, with candidates on the hard left, right and far-right all promising to improve ties with the Kremlin, accused by some of meddling in the vote.European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans also rounded on Russia, accusing President Vladimir Putin, who hosted French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen for a visit on March 24, of trying to weaken an already ailing EU.Moscow has denied any meddling in France's affairs but Putin's meeting with Le Pen, who is forecast to go head-to-head with pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron in the election runoff – has put Russia back in the campaign spotlight.Russia had initially seemed keener on self-described Putin "friend" Fillon, who is alleged to have been paid to arrange a meeting between the Russian leader and a Lebanese billionaire in 2015 .Fillon counseled against giving into "fantasies," while warning Le Pen that Russia was "dangerous".
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