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France's Le Pen Dismisses Ukraine Blacklisting Threat Over Crimea Comments

Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front party, delivers her New Year's wishes to the press in Paris on January 4.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has dismissed Ukraine's threat to bar her from entering the country following her assertion that Russia's annexation of Crimea was not illegal.

"Marine Le Pen had no intention of going there anyway. This issue will be solved via diplomatic channels when she becomes president of the Republic," a spokesman for Le Pen told the Reuters news agency on January 4.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry earlier had threatened to blacklist Le Pen, saying she had shown "disrespect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

In a TV interview on January 3, the leader of the National Front party said: "I absolutely disagree that it was an illegal annexation."

"A referendum was held and residents of Crimea chose to rejoin Russia," said Le Pen, who is running in the April 17 presidential election on a platform that includes forging stronger ties with Russia.

Russian forces swept into the Black Sea peninsula in February 2014 and a month later organized a referendum in which more than 95 percent of Crimean voters backed joining Russia.

"I see no grounds whatsoever to question this referendum," Le Pen said, adding that she views Crimea as a part of Russia.

The United States and European Union branded the referendum as "farcical" and have insisted that Crimea's annexation from Ukraine was illegal.

They cited the takeover as the principle reason for hitting Russia with tough sanctions that remain in place today.

Based on reporting by dpa, Reuters, The Independent, and TASS