EU snub: How bloc’s leaders refused to attend Vladimir Putin’s Victory Day celebrations

Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day, is a day celebrating the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War 2 of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces on Tuesday, May 8, 1945. Most countries celebrate the end of World War 2 on May 8 – but several former Soviet bloc countries, including Russia, Belarus, and Serbia celebrate on May 9. This year, Victory in Europe Day has a landmark anniversary.

The 75th celebrations of the day fall this Friday; but because of the coronavirus crisis, all the street parties and events have been cancelled.

As many people are looking for safe alternatives to celebrate, unearthed reports reveal how in 2015, EU leaders decided decided to snub celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2 in Moscow.

According to a 2015 report by The Telegraph, the move sparked fury from Russian officials, who described the move “an insult to the memory of Allied soldiers”.

Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, said an “unseemly campaign” had been initiated by European politicians over the May 9 Victory Day parade that year, which was the largest and most lavishly held in Russian history.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron and the leaders of Greece, Belgium, Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia refused to attend, while Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, travelled to Russia a day later and joined Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Speaking via a video link from Brussels at a Moscow press conference, Mr Chizhov said: “The fact that in several countries of the European Union an unseemly campaign has been deployed around the Victory anniversary, which does no honour to those politicians taking part in it, and insults the memory of Soviet soldiers, of their own compatriots who fell in the battles with fascism – this will clearly have to be left on their consciences.”

Downing Street had announced almost two months earlier that Mr Cameron would not go to Moscow.

A spokesman for Mr Cameron said at the time: “We will be considering our representation in light of our ongoing discussions with Russia, and our concerns about their activity.

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“We don’t have plans for the Prime Minister to attend, and I’m sure we will set out who will represent the Government in due course.”

He and other European leaders were thought to be boycotting the event in protest at Russia’s alleged aggression in Ukraine.

The UK ended up being represented by the grandson of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Nicholas Soames.

Barack Obama, the US president, also refused to go, citing a tight schedule.

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Donald Tusk, the former President of the European Council, said he had received an invitation but would not attend because his “presence at a military parade beside the current aggressors and the person who uses weapons against civilians eastern in Ukraine would be, for me to put it mildly, too ambiguous”.

Ukraine and Russia have been embattled since Moscow supported a pro-Russian separatist uprising in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, in 2014, where armed conflict remains to this day.

Since then, the EU has imposed economic sanctions and restrictive measures against Russia.

In March, the EU Council decided that current sanctions in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine should be extended for a further six months until September 15, 2020.

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