Crimea, Russian loans and the Le Pens: the Kremlin's intriguing SMS messages

France — Investigation

Secret text messages hacked from a senior official at the Kremlin highlight an intriguing coincidence between the Front National's support for the annexation of Crimea and the payment in subsequent months of 11 million euros in Russian bank loans to its president Marine Le Pen and her father Jean-Marie for party funding. SMS messages between two Russians refer to Marine Le Pen's recognition of the results of the Crimean referendum on March 17th, 2014, and the fact that she should be “thanked” in some way for it. The following month Jean-Marie Le Pen's micro party received a 2-million-euro loan from the offshoot of a Russian state bank subsidiary, while in September 2014 the Front National borrowed 9 million euros from the Moscow-based First Czech Russian Bank. Marine Le Pen has dismissed any link between the party's policy on Crimea and the loans. Agathe Duparc, Karl Laske and Marine Turchi investigate.

France's Hollande meets Putin on Ukraine crisis

International — Link

Hollande, who was in Moscow on way back from trip to Kazakhstan, is most senior Western leader to visit Russia since it annexed Crimea.

Aristocratic French politician defends plans for Russian theme park

France — Link

Philippe de Villiers says Russian president Vladimir Putin is only leader fighting for 'non-globalised world that nourishes deep roots'.

French politician and Russian oligarch team up for Crimean theme park

International — Link

Right-wing Philippe de Villiers agrees deal which legal experts say is in open defiance of EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine crisis.

France suspends 'most' military cooperation with Russia

International — Link

France will also offer to send four fighter jets to Baltic states to boost NATO air patrols over the region should the military alliance request them.

Ukraine: France warns Russia it could cancel warships deal

International — Link

Foreign minister Laurent Fabius says £1bn contract for two high-tech Mistral warships could be blocked if situation escalates.

UPDATE: Russia, US and key EU states hold Paris talks over Ukraine crisis

International — Link

US state secretary John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov held their first face-to-face talks, which are to continue over coming days.