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Duma lawmakers welcomed three members of Germany's far-right AfD party in Moscow, with the visitors calling to end the sanctions against Russia.
Senior Russian lawmakers and members of the AfD party called to "normalize" Russian-German relations after a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday, according to Russian parliament's webpage.
The visit of AfD regional leader Alice Weidel and two other AfD federal parliamentarians comes despite major rifts between Berlin and Moscow over Russia's jailing of its opposition politician Alexei Navalny and lingering EU-Russian strains over Ukraine.
Weidel, whose anti-immigrant AfD branch contests next Sunday's regional election in Germany's Baden-Württemberg state, said her party hoped to help "deepen and improve" German-Russian relations.
AfD's aim was "to finally end economic sanctions" imposed on Russia, said Weidel, who leads the AfD's parliamentary group in the Bundestag.
Russia's parliament published photos of Weidel alongside Leonid Slutsky , chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs.
She was also pictured visiting President Vladimir Putin's envoy for foreign cultural cooperation, Michail Schvydkoy, who was Russia's culture minister for several years until 2004.
"The parliamentarians from Russia and Germany confirmed the similarity of their positions on the main issues of the international agenda and expressed their interests in the normalization of inter-state relations," stated the Duma on its website.
The Russian parliament also cited the AfD as criticizing the "use of double standards in bilateral dialog."
"We need more pragmatism in relations and less ideological blinkeredness," said Weidel in quotes run by Germany's DPA news agency.
Weidel is expected set to stay in Russia until Friday along with two other federal AfD parliamentarians, Robby Schlund and Petr Byston, who is the leading AfD representative in the German Bundestag's foreign affairs committee.
The trio were scheduled to also hold talks with Russia's central bank, foreign ministry and visit the Gamaleya research institute where Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine was developed.
Last December, AfD federal co-leader Tino Chrupalla visited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while also criticizing EU sanctions on Russia.
Weidel's regional AfD branch in the state of Baden-Württemberg is hoping to draw in new voters ahead of a regional election on Sunday. The populist party polls third with 12% support, down from 15% in 2016. Germany's Greens are currently leading the race with 32%, ahead of Angela Merkel's CDU on who have 25%, according to the Insa poll institute.
Weidel's AfD branch has also undergone internal schisms in recent years, with German ARD public broadcaster reporting on "power struggles and aversions" within the party.
Also voting on Sunday will be Germany's Rhine Palatinate state. The double vote on Sunday and and a regional election in Saxony-Anhalt state in June are precursors to Germany's federal Bundestag election in late September.
ipj/dj (dpa, AFP)