June 6, 2014, is the 70th anniversary of the historic D-Day landings in Normandy, France, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning to attend the commemorations with Western leaders.
“Such a trip is being worked out,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that it was “undoubtedly” not ruled out.
French President Francois Hollande sent Putin an invitation in March. “I invited President Putin for the D-Day celebrations on June 6 and I maintain that invitation,” Hollande said. “Russia was in solidarity with France and paid a heavy tribute,” he added.
France’s justification for the invitation is “historic context.” A source from the Elysée reportedly said, “We have with Russia our dead and our heroes,” adding that this gathering is “different from the G8 summit.”
The G8 was scheduled to meet in Sochi, Russia, in June, but the other seven countries agreed to boycott the summit after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. The G7 countries will now meet in Brussels on June 4-5.
The situation between Ukraine and Russia has caused a major standoff between Moscow and the West similar to the Cold War days, which began after WWII. The U.S. passed harsh sanctions against Putin’s inner circle. The list includes Igor Sechin, the president and chairman of Rosneft, which is Russia’s top petroleum company. Sanctions also targeted Bank Rossiya, which is Putin’s preferred bank.
Russia has responded by threatening Ukraine and Europe with its gas supply. Gazprom, which is not on any sanction list, raised the price of Ukraine’s gas and told Europe it will not receive natural gas until it helps Ukraine pay off its debt. Europe receives almost half its energy from Russia, even though the U.S. warned them in 1981 not to rely on Russian energy.
Russian media said Putin might take part in talks with Western leaders while in France. Leaders from Britain, America, and Germany are expected to be in attendance.
D-Day is considered the turning point of World War II because it began the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. Russia joined the Allies after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, and the Red Army was instrumental in the defeat of Nazism across Europe. Putin passed a law “introducing punishment of up to five years in prison or a fine of about 500,000 rubles (about $14,000) for anyone found guilty of denying facts established by the Nuremberg trials regarding the crimes of Axis powers.”