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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Le Pen on Hand for Zhirinovsky Bash

Jean-Marie Le Pen, president of France's extreme right-wing National Front party, weighed in behind Vladimir Zhirinovsky's bid for the Russian presidency when he arrived Friday in Moscow to attend the nationalist politician's belated religious wedding.

A smiling Le Pen, visiting Russia for the first time, told reporters at Sheremetyevo 2 airport: "As the president of a French political party, I would not have agreed to attend an official occasion if I did not have sympathy and respect for Mr. Zhirinovsky and for his political program."

He added that he hoped to collaborate more closely with Russian political parties, "especially if Mr Zhirinovsky wins the presidential election."

Zhirinovsky has planned a lavish ceremony at Moscow's Archangel Michael Cathedral on Sunday to mark his 25th wedding anniversary and to promote his bid for the presidency. He and his wife, Galina, previously were married in a civil ceremony.

Le Pen was greeted by LDPR member Alexei Mitrofanov, chairman of the State Duma committee on geopolitics. He will appear with Zhirinovsky at a joint press conference on Saturday. Mitrofanov said the LDPR and the National Front have had "certain ties ... for some time."

"While this is largely a private visit, I suppose that politicians have no private matters, and I think that our discussions, especially in regard to the upcoming presidential elections in Russia, will be very productive and interesting," Mitrofanov said.

Le Pen's reactionary, anti-immigrant message has reached an ever-wider audience in France since the early 1980s. In the 1995 French presidential election, he collected 15 percent of the vote. He currently serves as a deputy in the European Parliament.

Le Pen criticized the French government for denying Zhirinovsky a visa to leave Strasbourg during his 1994 appearance at the European Parliament. "The French government is not the judge of any foreigner's dignity or quality," he said, calling Zhirinovsky "the personality most representative of Russia."

Zhirinovsky's spokesman, Viktor Filatov, said Thursday the LDPR had spared no expense to ensure the ceremony will be memorable. "We have spent millions and millions [of rubles] for a sea of vodka, cisterns of wine and barrels of beer," he told Reuters. "There will be fireworks. There will be pies to eat and all the homeless have been invited. All of them will get money from Vladimir Wolfovich."

The couple is scheduled to arrive at the cathedral in a horse-drawn troika, Filatov said, and the 49-year-old politician will wear a long sable coat as he distributes money to the poor as the tsars used to do. "All the homeless will hang on his coat just as if he were Ivan the Terrible. They will say, 'Save us!'" Filatov told Reuters.

Asked if he shared Zhirinovsky's support of polygamy, which the LDPR leader expressed on television Thursday, Le Pen demurred. Seated next to his wife, he said: "I have the morality of the wolf who, as you know, is a faithful animal. He has a single mate, a single female. I follow this philosophy."