CORRECTED: French FM to visit Moscow for WWII victory celebrations
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he would go to Russia for Saturday's celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany which is being boycotted by most Western countries.
However Fabius will not attend a massive Red Square military parade seen as a show of force by President Vladimir Putin whose annexation of Crimea last year and support for militants in eastern Ukraine has strained ties with the West.
"I won't be at the parade itself but I will go lay a wreath and then I will go to the Kremlin," Fabius told Europe 1 radio.
"President Francois Hollande can't go, he will be in Cuba, but we wanted to be represented on a ministerial level," Fabius said.
He joins leaders such as Czech Republic President Milos Zeman and Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico who will also visit Moscow but will not attend the parade.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will head to Moscow on May 10 to lay a wreath with Putin at an unknown soldier's memorial before holding a joint press conference.
"It is history. The Russians lost dozens of millions of people in the war and history doesn't change," said Fabius.
"We are playing a very important role in trying to find a solution in Ukraine. We hold discussions with the Russians, we are not going to talk one day and then not be there the next."
Neither Paris or Berlin can completely freeze out Moscow, a key partner in the Iranian nuclear talks and efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis.
France has an additional concern in keeping up bilateral relations: the frozen 1.2 billion euro ($1.5 billion) deal to sell two Mistral warships to Moscow.
France suspended the deal over Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict and it is still up in the air.
President Francois Hollande has said that they two nations are still negotiating an end to the crisis but that France will re-imburse Russia if it does not deliver the warships.
Of the 68 world leaders invited to Russia's celebrations this weekend, only 22 will be present.
They will include United Nations head Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of Cuba, India, Mongolia, Serbia, South Africa and Vietnam.
© 2015 AFP