The glaring absence from the D-Day events underscores Russia’s pariah status

As countries come together this week to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Russia – the country that prides itself on playing the key role in the Allied victory over Nazi Germany – will be absent.

No Russian official representing Vladimir Putin’s government was invited to visit the Elysee Palace due to the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine, which has now entered its third year. Representatives of the anti-Kremlin opposition and civil society will also not attend.

French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to host US President Joe Biden, British King Charles III and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the beaches of Normandy, representing the three main countries involved in the landing operations on June 6, 1944.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and about 200 surviving veterans are also expected to attend.

During World War II, the Soviet Union, of which Russia was the 15th largest republic, was allied with Britain and the United States against Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union bore the brunt of the battles until the Allies opened a second front on D-Day and suffered the highest casualties of the war, with more than 20 million people killed.

While some Russian dissidents agreed that Moscow officials should not attend, they said Russians should not be completely excluded from the highly symbolic celebrations.

Veteran human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, one of the founders of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Memorial group, told AFP: “It is not acceptable that representatives of Russia, which sacrificed millions in this war, are not present there.”

“I think the opposition could and should have been there,” said Ponomarev, 82, who lives in France after fleeing arrest threats in Russia.

He said: “We are representatives of Russia, which defeated Hitlerism only because we stood up to Putin’s fascism.”

– Change of orientation –

Olga Prokopyeva, head of the Paris-based Rossi-Liberties association of anti-Putin exiles, made a similar observation, saying it was important for Russia to be represented at the D-Day celebrations.

He added: “Russia’s absence will be exploited for Russian propaganda, and this will appear as a humiliation for the Russian people.”

In April, organizers said Russian officials – not Putin – would be invited to the celebrations in Normandy, sparking protests from Ukrainians.

Rosé-Liberties sent a letter to Macron’s aides, suggesting that France instead invite members of the beleaguered Russian opposition and civil society such as Yulia Navalnaya, Alexei Navalny’s widow who has pledged to pursue his case, and Evgenia Kara. – Murza, wife of Vladimir Kara-Murza, an activist imprisoned in Russia for his opposition to the war.

But the French presidency said last week that a Russian delegation would not be present at the ceremony “in view of the aggressive war waged by Russia against Ukraine, which has intensified over the past few weeks.”

After France changed its position on Russia, Canadian Trudeau said he believed all countries participating in World War II should be recognized, despite our “strong disagreement” with the Kremlin.

Paris said the Soviet Union’s “decisive contribution” during World War II would be mentioned during the ceremony on Omaha Beach and during events at the cemeteries containing the remains of Soviet soldiers.

Macron also hosted Navalnaya over the weekend for a meeting at the Elysee Palace.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no discussion about the presence of Russian officials. “We have no communications of any kind regarding this case.”

– Call for a ceasefire –

Dmitry Muratov, a 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who met Macron in Paris in April, said he personally did not care who attended the celebrations and marches.

“Their estimate is greatly exaggerated,” he told AFP, adding that surviving World War II veterans were the most important guests.

Muratov, who co-founded a major Russian independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, said stopping Moscow’s war against Ukraine was crucial, and urged veterans on Victory Day to issue a ceasefire call “in memory of those who died for peace in Russia.” World War II. “.

“This will be very important for all of us,” he added.

“These are the people who can ask Putin and the world to stop fighting.”

Historically, Operation Overlord has been a source of tensions with the Kremlin, which insisted that the Allies took too long to open a second front in Europe.

Putin alluded to the controversy during Victory Day celebrations on May 9, saying that “during the long and difficult first three years of the Great Patriotic War” the Soviet Union fought against Nazi Germany “practically face to face.”

Putin attended the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings in 2004, along with Jacques Chirac. He was also present at events commemorating the 70th anniversary in 2014, despite Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

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