Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, center, his wife Svetlana, left, listen to Mgr Patrick Jacquin as they visit the Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris, Tuesday March 2, 2010. Russia and France took their courtship to a new level in Paris on Monday, entering talks about the sale of four French warships to Moscow, standing together against nuclear-minded Iran and urging a new global financial order. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)Icons and opposition mark Medvedev visit to Paris
March 2, 2010 - 2:18pm
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, center, his wife Svetlana, left, listen to Mgr Patrick Jacquin as they visit the Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris, Tuesday March 2, 2010. Russia and France took their courtship to a new level in Paris on Monday, entering talks about the sale of four French warships to Moscow, standing together against nuclear-minded Iran and urging a new global financial order. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)
By ANGELA CHARLTON
Associated Press Writer
PARIS (AP) - Russia's president turned his attention away from French warships and toward icons and relics Tuesday as the Louvre Museum and Notre Dame cathedral pulled out the stops for Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Paris.
Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy moved closer to a major military deal and oversaw accords giving France more access to Russian gas during the first day of the Russian president's state visit Monday.
On Tuesday, Medvedev looked on as the head of France's top business lobby wooed top executives from some of Russia's largest banks, mining and aerospace firms.
With the diplomatic and economic work of Medvedev's visit over, the Russian president and his wife turned to religious and cultural pursuits.
At Notre Dame, they kissed the Crown of Thorns and a painting of the Virgin Mary, crossed themselves in the Russian Orthodox manner and listened, heads bowed, to a brief service by the No. 2 in the French Catholic Church, Msgr. Patrick Jacquin.
Later, Medvedev and Sarkozy were given special access to the Louvre, closed to the public Tuesdays, for a sneak peek at one of the museum's top exhibits this year.
"Holy Russia" showcases 900 years of Russian art, tracing Russia's conversion to Orthodox Christianity, the emergence of Moscow as a center of Russian power and the volatile years that led up to the reign of western-looking Peter the Great. The collection, focusing on icons and including masterpieces by Andrei Rublev, was pieced together from monasteries and museums around Russia, and opens to the public Friday.
Not far from the official Russian splendors on display at the Louvre, the Russian opposition held its own exhibit.
In a small gallery tucked away in a narrow street not far from the Opera, a series of drawings and paintings done by Russian artists during the courtroom appearances of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the founder of the Yukos oil giant who is serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion, are on display.
Despite diplomatic concerns about the Russian leadership's suppression of critics and sway over its former Soviet neighbors, France is mindful of the economic and strategic payoffs of closer ties with Russia.
Russia "is a country in which we are confident and proud to invest," said Laurence Parisot, the head of French business lobby MEDEF.
On Monday, Medvedev and Sarkozy entered talks about selling four French Mistral-class warships to Moscow, in what would be the biggest ever arms sale by a NATO country to Russia.
Georgia, defeated by Russia in a brief war in 2008, cried foul.
Mamuka Kudava, Georgia's ambassador to Paris, told The Associated Press Tuesday that it would be "incomprehensible" if France sells the Mistral-class ship, which can carry helicopters and tanks, to Russia. "Georgia is going to protest about it. We will talk about it very loudly."
Paris welcomed the Russian visitors with flair. Medvedev arrived in the French capital by helicopter, and scores of golden-helmeted Republican Guards on horseback led his limousine across the Alexandre III bridge, named for the second-to-last czar. On Tuesday, guards on horseback lined up for Medvedev's arrival at the Paris City Hall.
Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy host the Medvedevs for a state dinner Tuesday night. The Medvedevs leave Wednesday morning.
Associated Press writers Deborah Seward, Jamey Keaten and Greg Keller in Paris contributed to this report.
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By ANGELA CHARLTON
Associated Press Writer