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France's Le Pen, on Russia visit, heads to Kremlin for exhibition

Candidate for the 2017 presidential election Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader, arrives for a meeting with members of the State Duma, the Russian lower house of parliament's international affairs committee, in Moscow, Russia March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, on a visit to Moscow, cut short a schedule of events in the Russian parliament to go to the Kremlin to view an exhibition of French gothic art, the speaker of parliament told reporters.

Le Pen aides did not say whether she would be meeting any Russian officials while in Moscow. President Vladimir Putin was at the Kremlin on Friday presiding over an awards ceremony.

Le Pen, who has said she admires the Russian leader, was visiting Russia at the invitation of Leonid Slutsky, head of the lower house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Russian news agencies reported.

Reporters had been told she would give a news conference at the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, after meeting Russian lawmakers, but she did not turn up for the event at the designated time.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, told reporters Le Pen was en route to the Kremlin to take in the art exhibition instead.

Asked on Franceinfo radio if Le Pen would meet Putin, her deputy, Florian Philippot, said: “I have no information about this but if she is to see him you will hear about it.”

He added: “We won’t have any financing (of her presidential campaign) from Russian banks, I can guarantee that 100 percent.”

Le Pen held meetings earlier on Friday with Russian parliamentarians during which she explained why she opposed European Union sanctions imposed on Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

She also said that Russia and France needed to unite to fight global terrorism. Putin has long advocated teaming up with the West to take on the Islamic State group.

Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya in Moscow and Ingrid Melander in Paris; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Christian Lowe