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'I Don't Regret It at All': Marine Le Pen Stands by Her Recognition of Crimea as Part of Russia

© AFP 2023 / JULIEN DE ROSAFrench far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) presidential candidate Marine Le Pen takes part in the evening news broadcast of French TV channel TF1, in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, on April 12, 2022.
French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) presidential candidate Marine Le Pen takes part in the evening news broadcast of French TV channel TF1, in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, on April 12, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.04.2022
The Black Sea peninsula became a Russian region in March 2014 following a referendum after a coup took place in Ukraine a month prior. More than 95% of the voters both in Crimea and in the city of Sevastopol supported reunification with Russia. Ukraine refused to recognize the results of the vote, saying that Crimea was "temporarily occupied."
French nationalist National Rally party presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said that she continues to see Crimea as part of Russia, and does not regret being prohibited from visiting Ukraine for this reason.
In an interview with national BFM TV aired on Wednesday, Le Pen was commenting on her famous 2017 statement, in which she said that the so-called "annexation" of the Ukrainian peninsula was "not illegal." She also said back then that she "absolutely [did] not believe that there was an illegal annexation, [but] there was a referendum, and the inhabitants of Crimea wanted to join Russia."
The presidential hopeful stressed that she does not regret her words, reiterating her view that "the decision on Crimea’s status was made through a referendum."

"So, I won't go to Kiev… I don't regret it at all. Crimea was Ukrainian for 26 years and the rest of the time it was Russian. People in Crimea wanted to rejoin Russia," she explained.

When answering the question on whether she wanted to visit Kiev, though she was banned from Ukraine five years ago, the politician stated: "I have no plans to visit Kiev at the moment, but if I am elected president, they will probably lift the ban."
Thus, Le Pen seems to confirm her stance on the issue, when she said that there was nothing "what justifies calling this referendum into question," in her 2017 interview.

"There was no invasion of Crimea, we have to stop! Crimea has always been Russian. It was given to Ukraine not very long ago by the Soviets,” she told the French TV networks in 2017, per the translation. "We cannot be a democrat when it suits us, and reject democracy when it is not the case."

Despite the overwhelming support of the peninsula's residents towards reunification with Russia, the referendum, held in accordance with international law, was not recognized by the international community, which imposed broad economic sanctions on Russia.

Le Pen Against Sanctions, But Only Those Which Hit France

However, Le Pen's remarks appear to contradict her current position on the ongoing Ukraine crisis, and in particular her support for the Ukrainians and Western sanctions, with exception for those concerning the energy sector.
According to the French media, back in early 2017, when she was also a candidate for president, Le Pen said the sanctions the collective West imposed on Russia in connection with Crimean referendum were "total stupidity."

"They didn't solve anything, they only created economic problems for the European Union. They don't make sense," she said.

But as of now, following the start of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine this February, Le Pen claimed that she was not "for the lifting of sanctions," adding that on the other hand, she stands for the removal of sanctions concerning energy "because I do not want the French people to suffer the consequences."
Moreover, this Wednesday, she stated that she would not visit Russia until its troops were removed from Ukraine and a peace accord was concluded. Additionally, during an earlier campaign speech in Paris, she offered to provide both lethal and non-lethal military aid to the conflict-torn Ukraine.
NATO flag - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.04.2022
Marine Le Pen Vows to Pull France Out of NATO's Integrated Military Command if Elected President
Notably, Le Pen stated that NATO and Russia must reestablish their strategic relationship. She maintained that greater ties between Russia and China were not only in France's and Europe's interests, but also in the United States'.

"As soon as the Russian-Ukrainian war is over and settled by a peace treaty, I will advocate for a strategic rapprochement between NATO and Russia," she told the press.

Within NATO, Le Pen reaffirmed her demand for France's independence from Washington. The US has always held the top spot in the alliance's command structure, and Le Pen has stated that if she is elected, she will have France leave the military leadership.
On April 10, the first round of France's presidential election was held. With 27.84% of the vote, incumbent President Emmanuel Macron came out on top, followed by Le Pen with 23.15%. They will face off in an electoral runoff slated for April 24.
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