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Leader of Germany's far-right party meets Putin allies in Moscow

Reuters

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Reuters) - The leader of Germany's far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) held talks with Russian officials during a visit to Moscow at the weekend, including with an ultra-nationalist ally of President Vladimir Putin, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Frauke Petry, whose party is expected to enter parliament for the first time after a federal election on Sept. 24, discussed possible cooperation between Russian and German regional assemblies with her hosts.

Her spokesman Oliver Lang said the two sides did not discuss possible financial assistance for the AfD and that there will be more meetings.

France's far-right National Front (FN) party in 2014 borrowed 9 million euros ($9.48 million) from Moscow-based First Czech-Russian bank. The bank has lost its license to operate and Russia has started legal proceedings to recover the loan.

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FN leader Marine Le Pen said that, unlike mainstream parties, the FN had not managed to secure any loans from French banks.

Potential Russian influence over western elections has become a sensitive issue since U.S. intelligence agencies accused their Russian counterparts of seeking to disrupt the U.S. election through hacking and cyber attacks. Moscow has denied the allegations.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the ultra-nationalist leader of the pro-Kremlin Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and a fan of U.S. President Donald Trump, was present at the talks with Petry, a statement posted on the Russian parliament website said.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma lower house, and his deputy Pyotr Tolstoy were also there.

The Duma statement said Volodin and Petry discussed "cooperation of regional parliaments and parties as well as improving contacts between youth organizations".

Petry was invited to Russia by local authorities in Moscow, the statement said.

The AfD has seats in 10 of Germany's 16 regional parliaments and is expected to become the third-largest party in the Bundestag lower house after the federal election in seven months.

Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) in December offered to act as a go-between for Trump and Putin after signing a cooperation agreement with the Russian president's party.

(Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann in Berlin and Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow; Writing by Joseph Nasr, editing by Ed Osmond)