Marine Le Pen
France's far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen poses in front of a poster for her 2017 French presidential election campaign as she inaugurates her party campaign headquarters "L'Escale" in Paris, Nov. 16, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March 2014 was legal, according to French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. The French far-right leader is also of the opinion that Crimea is an integral part of Russia.

Le Pen, who has vowed to work closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin if she becomes the next French president following the elections, made the comments in an interview with French channel BFM TV on Tuesday.

“I absolutely do not believe that it was an illegal annexation,” Le Pen said. “There was a referendum and residents of Crimea wanted to join Russia.”

In February 2014, Russian forces entered the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. The following month, Moscow held a referendum, in which 96.77 percent voters supported Crimea’s integration into the Russian Federation.

However, the results of the referendum were met with sharp criticism and Britain called it “farcical” and “illegitimate.” Following the annexation, Russia faced international sanctions and condemnation by the European Union and the United Nations.

However, for Le Pen, there was no reason to disagree with the referendum result.

“I see no grounds whatsoever to question this referendum,” she told BFM TV.

The National Front party leader also reportedly said that France and Russia must set up “strategic relations” in a bid to fight the Islamic State group.

Le Pen is widely seen as having pro-Russia views and establishing close ties with Moscow.

The presidential election in France will be held in two rounds on April 23 and May 7. Le Pen’s election opponent, Francois Fillon of Republican party, is said to have close ties with the Kremlin and has insisted that Russia is a “crucial partner” for France. Fillon has vowed to lift the European sanctions imposed on Moscow following the annexation.