Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Barack Obama and other Western leaders for the first time since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis when he attends a World War II anniversary in Normandy, France.
Russia’s ambassador to France, Aleksandr Orlov, was first to
speak about Putin’s arrival at the ceremony, with his words later
confirmed by presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov.
Obama and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, as well as Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, are among those who will participate in the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on June 6.
In 1944, the Normandy landings opened the Western Front in WWII, which left the Nazis caught between the allied US, British and European troops and the Soviet Army advancing from the East.
French President Francois Hollande said that Putin’s invitation to the Normandy event remains in force.
“I have told Vladimir Putin, as representative of the Russian people, that he’s welcome to attend the ceremony,” Hollande said in an interview with BFM television.
In a later appearance at TF1 television, Hollande explained that his difference of opinion with Putin doesn’t mean that he “has forgotten or will ever forget the millions of lives the Russian people have given [during WWII].”
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian went even further, saying that canceling the Russian president’s invitation would be a historical insult, Reuters reported.
“It is in the order of things that [Putin] should be there,” he told BFM.
Le Drian said that the Normandy campaign “would not have been successful without the Eastern front.”
“In these moments of commemoration, it is important that all of those who took part should be present,” he said.
The commemoration will take place at the Benouville manor house, not far from Caen, with the international ceremony in memory of the troops who died held in the town of Ouistreham, on the Normandy coast.
Moscow’s relations with the West seriously deteriorated after an armed coup, which ousted Ukraine’s democratically elected president in February, and the republic of Crimea departing from Kiev’s control and reuniting with Russia in March.
Despite failing to provide any proof, the US and EU blame Russia for masterminding the current uprising in the southeast of Ukraine where the people refused to recognize the coup-installed Kiev regime backed by the West.
The US and European Union have imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian politicians and businessmen, and G7 leaders pulled out of a G8 summit, which Russia was to host in the 2014 Olympic capital Sochi in June.