PARIS — Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen won’t attend a planned address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the French parliament, she said on French radio Monday morning.
Following speeches to the U.S. Congress and to Germany’s Bundestag, Zelenskyy is expected to speak to French MPs Wednesday via video link and will no doubt receive a standing ovation in parliament.
Le Pen, whose party has had long-standing ties with Russia, said she did not feel it was necessary to show her support for Zelenskyy. Le Pen cited “previous engagements” to justify her decision not to attend.
“I don’t particularly admire Mr. Zelenskyy,” she said on France Info. “I think he is behaving like a head of state and it shouldn’t spark our admiration, it should be normal behavior.”
“I won’t be present, I have previous engagements that were taken long ago,” she said. According to her public diary, Le Pen, who is an elected MP, will instead be giving interviews to the press.
With the parliamentary session on hiatus just three weeks ahead of April’s presidential election, many MPs have left the capital and are busy campaigning in their constituencies.
But Le Pen’s decision not to attend Zelenskyy’s address shows the hard-right candidate is treading an ambiguous line on Russia, despite condemning the invasion of Ukraine. Le Pen has also questioned the impact of the EU sanctions on Russia, warning that she didn’t want France to commit “political suicide” due to increases in the prices of gas and raw materials.
For years Le Pen’s party defended Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime, refusing to condemn the annexation of Crimea or the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Le Pen herself had said she “admired” Putin and wanted France to build stronger ties with Russia.
Le Pen insisted on the radio that her National Rally party had shown its support for the Ukrainian people.
“I have expressed my solidarity for the Ukrainian people several times, and have said we should give Ukrainian refugees a decent welcome,” she said, adding that some towns run by the National Rally were giving shelter to refugees.