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Russia Says D-Day Shouldn't Be 'Exaggerated' As Western Leaders Honor Veterans

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Queen Elizabeth II (center) speaks from the royal box during an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Portsmouth on June 5.

Western leaders have joined Queen Elizabeth II in southern England to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest military landing operation in history that speeded up the end of World War II.

U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among leaders of 16 countries attending the June 5 ceremony in the port city of Portsmouth, one of the key embarkation points on D-Day.

As the leaders paid tribute to the "sacrifice" of those who died in the 1944 operation on the French coast of Normandy before more than 300 veterans, Russia's Foreign Ministry argued that the landings did not have a "decisive" influence on the outcome of the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attended commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings five years ago, was not invited to the events in Portsmouth.

The Soviet Union was not involved in the D-Day landings but was instrumental in defeating Nazi Germany.

More than 150,000 Allied troops set off from Portsmouth and the surrounding area on June 6, 1944, to begin the air, sea, and land attack on Normandy that ultimately led to the liberation of Western Europe from the Nazis.

The invasion, code-named Operation Overlord, was commanded by U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower. It remains the largest amphibious assault in history and involved almost 7,000 ships and landing craft along an 80-kilometer stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

Thousands were killed on both sides.

In Portsmouth, Queen Elizabeth paid tribute to the "heroism, courage, and sacrifice" of those who died in the landings, while Trump, who was on the last day of his three-day state visit to Britain, said D-Day "may have been the greatest battle ever."

The commemoration was attended by leaders from every country that fought on D-Day, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, and Slovakia.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova offered a tribute to those who died on the Western Front and said the Allies' contribution to the victory was "clear."

"It should of course not be exaggerated," she added, noting the Soviet Union's "titanic efforts, without which this victory simply would not have happened."

Zakharova continued, telling reporters that the landings in Normandy "did not have a decisive impact" on the outcome of the war.

"It had already been predetermined as a result of the Red Army's victories, she added, citing the battles of Stalingrad in 1942 and Kursk in 1943.

Russia has accused the West in the past of failing to acknowledge the Soviet Union's contribution to the 1945 victory over the Nazis and the human losses -- estimated at 26 million deaths -- it suffered during the conflict.

The countries represented at the Portsmouth commemorations agreed a proclamation pledging to "ensure that the unimaginable horror of these years is never repeated" and commit to working together to "resolve international tensions peacefully."

Further memorial services are planned in Britain and France on June 6.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP, and Interfax
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