The French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has reiterated her support for Russia's claim on Crimea in a newspaper interview in which she made another decisive tilt towards Moscow.
With three months before France goes to the polls, the Front National leader said she recognised Crimea as being part of Russia and if elected, she would push for a dropping of sanctions against Russia which France had backed simply because it was following German orders.
She told the Russian newspaper, Izvestia, that the referendum in the peninsula in 2014 to become part of Russia showed the "agreement of the people to join Russia".
"Ukraine's ownership of Crimea was just an administrative issue from Soviet times, the peninsula was never Ukrainian," she said.
"I regret that the referendum, organised as a demonstration of the will of the people of the peninsula, was not recognised by the international community and the UN."
A number of Crimeans boycotted the ballot which followed Russia's seizure of Crimea. The referendum was condemned by the EU and the US as illegal.
Le Pen had made the comments about Crimea on French television earlier in January after which the Ukrainian security service SBU proposed banning her from entering the country for five years.
She described sanctions against Russia as "senseless" and "a pretty stupid method of diplomacy" and that "all countries should show respect for each other, to negotiate on equal terms and to accept a compromise solution acceptable to all".
"We don't have to have a situation whereby the major powers impose their policies on other states, behaving like stubborn children," she told the paper.
The links between Le Pen and Russia have been well documented. Le Pen's party reportedly asked the First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB) in Moscow for a $30m (£24m) loan to fund her presidential campaign.
The French newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine, reported how the bank was said to be close to the country's president, Vladimir Putin, and that the US director of national intelligence had been asked to look into her links with Moscow.
While Le Pen is behind in the polls, the Kremlin is likely to expect a better relationship with France whoever wins the election on 23 April. The other contender, Francois Fillon, has said he wants a better relationship with Moscow.
After reports of Russian interference in the US presidential election, Paris is increasing its cybersecurity measures to ensure that the same claims cannot be made about France's ballot.
Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French intelligence agencies would look at lessons learnt from the US vote.