Angry Russia says forgotten at D-Day ceremony

20th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

Only US President Barack Obama mentioned the Soviet Union's contribution to defeating fascism and its horrendous losses at the recent ceremony.

Moscow -- Russia on Thursday protested that its role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II had gone unrecognised at this month's D-Day ceremonies, reopening old wartime tensions.

Only US President Barack Obama mentioned the Soviet Union's contribution to defeating fascism and its horrendous losses at the ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the landings, foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said.

Neither French President Nicolas Sarkozy, hosting the ceremony on the Normandy beaches, nor British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, nor Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to the Soviet Union in their speeches, he said.

"Not a single word was said (in these speeches) about the decisive role in the victory of the Soviet Union, which took the hardest blows from Hitler's army and sustained the heaviest casualties," Nesterenko said.

"The liberation of Europe would not have been possible if millions of our soldiers had not given up their blood and lives in battles against the strongest units of Hitler's army."

Nesterenko's comments reflect lingering bitterness in Russia that the massive contribution of Soviet forces has been under-rated in the West.

Historians believe that some 27 million people in the Soviet Union lost their lives in World War II, a far higher toll than the rest of the Allies combined.

Even during their alliance, relations between the Soviet Union and the West were never smooth with Stalin repeatedly expressing impatience with the Allies' delays in opening the new front to take the pressure off his troops.

While Britain and the United States held off until 1944 before launching an operation to liberate France, Russia sustained huge losses against German forces, most notably at the battle of Stalingrad.

After the decision was taken to launch the D-Day operation, some 156,000 Allied personnel landed in France on June 6, 1944, in what remains the biggest amphibious assault in history.

"We do not want to diminish the importance of the battle for Normandy and put into question the bravery of the soldiers of our Allies," said Nesterenko.

"But we are in favour of correct interpretations of the course of the war and its outcomes."

AFP/Expatica

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