France’s far-right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said on January 3 that Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 was “not illegal.”

In an interview with French television channel BFM TV, the leader of the National Front party sided with the Kremlin in a dispute that has contributed to the worst East-West ties since the Cold War.

“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 of 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.