France marks World War II end, won't stop Putin attending D-Day ceremonies
France on Thursday marked the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II. And President François Hollande said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is welcome to attend June’s D-Day commemorations, despite Western criticism of Moscow’s role in Ukraine.
On 8 May 1945 World War II allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and Hollande was set to take part in the annual ceremony on Paris’s Champs Elysées.
The day was first made a public holiday in France in 1953 but it was abolished in 1959 when France and Germany started a reconciliation process.
It was later brought back by Socialist president François Mitterrand in 1982.
The biggest World War II-related ceremonies this year will be the 6 June commemoration of the D-Day landings that turned the tide on the western front.
The US and western Europe scrapped a G8 meeting in the Russian city of Sochi in March because of their criticism of Russia’s role in events in Ukraine and there has been speculation that Putin would not be welcome at the D-Day ceremonies.
But on Tuesday the Kremlin said that it was not excluded that he would go and sources told one Russian newspaper that the visit was planned and that bilateral meetings were expected to take place.
US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also attend.
On Thursday French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that Putin attending would be “in the natural order of things”.
“I can’t see why we would prevent the president of the Russian people, who lost nine million people in the battle against Nazism” from taking part in the commemoration, he said.
Hollande later in the day supported Le Drian's stance.
"We may have differences with Vladimir Putin but I have not forgotten and will never forget that the Russian people gave millions of lives" during World War II, he told France 2 television.
"I told Vladimir Putin that as the representative of the Russian people, he is welcome to the ceremonies."