Macron takes on PUTIN: France refuses to recognise Russian election result in Crimea

Paris officials said that they remained attached to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Vladimir Putin signed a controversial bill to absorb the peninsula into Russia in March 2014, ignoring Western leaders who said that the Black Sea peninsula was a part of Ukraine.

The French foreign ministry said in a statement: “France does not recognise the organisation of the Russian presidential election in Crimea today.

“Changing borders by force is contrary to international law, including commitments undertaken by the Russian Federation.”

A spokesman added France remained “firmly attached to the full restoration of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognised borders”.

Russia has been under intense international scrutiny since the chemical attack earlier this month on former spy Sergei Skripal, a Russian exile living in the UK.

Diplomatic relations between London and Moscow were frozen last week after it was found that Mr Skripal and his daughter had been poisoned with a Soviet-made nerve agent in what British Prime Minister Theresa May described as a “brazen attempt” by the Kremlin – namely Mr Putin – to murder “innocent civilians” on British soil.

But, despite the dark cloud of scandal hanging over his head and widespread reports of ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, Mr Putin was re-elected for a fourth term in power on Sunday with 74 percent of the vote.

Artem Studennikov, a political counsellor at the Russian embassy in Paris, told Europe 1 radio on Monday: “Mr Putin’s election victory was obvious. But his popularity [among Russian voters] is real and is based on his past achievements.”

Mr Studennikov added France’s decision to unite with Britain, Germany and the US to condemn the spy attack via a joint statement had not dented Franco-Russian relations.

He said: “Relations between France and Russia remain constructive and pragmatic. France is still a key partner for Russia and dialogue is being maintained at all levels.”

Mr Studennikov also rejected Britain’s allegations that Moscow had ordered the ex-spy’s poisoning, saying that officials would continue to “firmly deny the accusations against Russia”.