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Libération, Dec. 7, 2015

"It's getting closer," warns French leftist daily Libérationon its front page Monday, alongside a blurry picture of France's National Front leader Marine Le Pen, one day after her far-right party topped the vote in the first round of the country's regional elections.

France's National Front became the country's "first party," obtaining close to 30% in a historic win Sunday that came just three weeks after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. Le Pen herself is poised to take power in a key northern region, which Libération notes could pave the way for her to become a front-runner in France's presidential elections in 2017.

The nationalist party came first in six of France's 13 regions, with party leader Marine Le Pen getting 40.6% of the vote in the north, and a similar score for her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, in the southeast, Le Figaro reports.

A coalition of center-right parties, led by Nicolas Sarkozy's Les Républicains came second nationwide with 27%, a "slap in the face" for the ex-president, according to Le Monde. The ruling Socialist party (which also holds a majority of regions) ended third with 23%, in an election that saw a low turnout of just 51%.

Under French regional election rules, all candidates with more than 10% are eligible for next Sunday's second round. Almost every region saw candidates from the three main parties qualify for the runoff. But Socialist candidates who came in third place in the north and southeast have retreated from the race, following party instructions, in a bid to "block" the National Front from winning the runoff. At least one candidate, in the eastern region, has refused to do so.

Nicolas Sarkozy, eager to distance himself both from the Socialists and the National Front, ruled out such a move for his party's candidates who came third, sparking divisions inside his own ranks, according to Le Parisien.

Read a recent Marine Le Pen interview with Le TempsHERE

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Vladimir Putin delivers a speech to Russian people following the results of the referendum dealing with the annexation in four regions of Ukraine partly controlled by Moscow

Cameron Manley, Bertrand Hauger, Chloe Touchard, and Emma Albright

In a wide-ranging and provocative speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the annexation of four Ukraine regions, which Putin says now make Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson officially part of Russia.

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Speaking in the Kremlin’s St George’s Hall, the much-anticipated address to the Russian nation follows the so-called "referendums" in the occupied areas of the four Ukrainian regions — which the West condemned as shams held under gunpoint. Friday’s annexation comes as Russia is losing territory on the ground following a successful Ukrainian counter-offensive.

Putin directly addressed the leaders of Ukraine and "their real masters in the West," that the annexation was "for everyone to remember. People living in Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens. Forever."

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