BERLIN – Germany’s most prominent nationalist politician held talks with Russian lawmakers over the weekend, including senior members of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, her office said Monday.
Frauke Petry, the co-leader of Alternative for Germany, travelled to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian capital’s city administration to discuss “co-operation” with the legislative assemblies of Germany’s 16 states, according to a statement.
Petry also met with State Duma speaker and Putin confidant Vyacheslav Volodin, and a deputy speaker, Pyotr Tolstoy, “on the sidelines,” the statement said.
Her office didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether anyone accompanied Petry on the trip, who paid for it and what was discussed at the meeting with Volodin and Tolstoy.
But a separate statement by the Duma said the talks covered “interparty co-operation, as well as the development of contacts of youth organizations.” It added that the meeting also was attended by Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Leonid Slutsky of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.
The meeting comes at a sensitive time in German-Russian relations.
German officials have repeatedly warned that Moscow could try to influence Germany’s general election this September and destabilize the country by supporting extremist groups.
The Kremlin has already established ties with France’s National Front, whose leader, Marine Le Pen, is polling strongly ahead of presidential elections on a platform that includes better relations with Russia.
In the United States, lawmakers are examining intelligence agency findings that Russia hacked Democratic Party emails and tried to influence the U.S. election to help President Donald Trump win.
Petry’s visit to Moscow seemed to take some in her party by surprise. One of her deputies, Alexander Gauland, told the dpa news agency that he only learned of the trip on Monday.
Along with backing closer ties with Russia, Alternative for Germany strongly opposes Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to let hundreds of thousands of refugees into the country.
Recent opinion polls showed support for the party falling below 10 per cent.
Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.