Marine Le Pen flip-flops on attending Zelenskyy’s speech to French parliament
PARIS — Marine Le Pen will attend a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the French parliament Wednesday, her press team said, only a couple of hours after the far-right presidential candidate declared she had “previous engagements.”
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.
Le Pen, whose party has had long-standing ties with Russia, initially said she did not feel it was necessary to show her support for Zelenskyy. Le Pen, who is also an MP, cited “previous engagements” to justify her decision not to attend.
“I don’t particularly admire Mr. Zelenskyy,” she said on France Info Monday morning. “I think he is behaving like a head of state and it shouldn’t spark our admiration, it should be normal behavior.”
But faced with a barrage of media reports and criticism from opponents, Le Pen decided to cancel her engagements and attend the speech. An aide to the hard-right presidential candidate denied she was responding to the backlash.
“We just didn’t think we were going to be able to move so many planned interviews, in particular one with an overseas TV show,” he said.
Despite condemning the invasion of Ukraine, Le Pen has been behind the pack in endorsing Zelenskyy. She 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 has said she “admired” Putin and wanted France to build stronger ties with Russia.
Le Pen insisted on the radio that her National Rally party has 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.