Kremlin shrugs off D-Day snub, ministry says West wants to 'erase' Red Army role

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Friday shrugged off a French decision to keep Russia away from the 80th anniversary celebration of World War Two's D-Day landings after the Russian foreign ministry accused the West of seeking to "erase" the Red Army's wartime role.

The French presidency said on Thursday that Russia would not be invited to the events next week given what Paris called Moscow's war of aggression against Ukraine. It also rejected Russia's assertion that France was failing to honour the Soviet contribution to defeating Nazi Germany.

Dozens of heads of state and government, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and U.S. President Joe Biden, are due to attend the D-Day anniversary events in France, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has attended in the past.

More than 150,000 Allied troops launched the air, sea and land D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, an operation that ultimately led to the liberation of western Europe from Nazi Germany.

The Soviet Union lost more than 25 million people in what it calls the Great Patriotic War and Moscow marks the victory over Nazi Germany with an annual military parade on Red Square.

When asked about the French snub, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was hard at work planning its own celebrations for next year's Victory Day, which will mark the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

"Next year, you know, is an extremely important year for us", Peskov told a news briefing. "This is our main priority in terms of memorial actions".


On Victory Day this month, Putin said "arrogant" elites in Western countries had forgotten the decisive role the Soviet Union played in defeating the Nazis.

Echoing his comments, Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova this week accused Western countries of presenting D-Day as "the main event that decided the outcome of World War Two".

"Of course, nothing is said in the West about the fact that no landing in Normandy would have been possible without the successes of the Red Army. They are trying not only not to remember, but to erase it", she told a press briefing.

France on Friday dismissed such criticism, saying it had always honoured the "decisive contribution" of Soviet forces in defeating the Nazis and would pay tribute again next week within the framework of the D-Day anniversary celebration.

Putin, who casts the Ukraine conflict as part of a wider battle with the West, has sometimes likened what the Kremlin calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine to the Soviet Union's struggle against Nazi Germany, a comparison rejected by Kyiv and the West, which say Putin is engaged in an illegal colonial-style land grab.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Gareth Jones)