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French President Emmanuel Macron and King Charles III with the French First Lady, Brigitte Macron and Queen Camilla Alamy
normandy

Biden, King Charles, Macron and Zelensky remember D-Day landings under the shadow of Russia's war

Rusia wasn’t invited, underlining Moscow’s pariah status despite the decisive Soviet contribution to defeating Nazism in World War II.

WESTERN LEADERS TODAY saluted the sacrifice of soldiers who lost their lives in the World War II D-Day landings, mindful of the war in Europe raging 80 years on following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden, Britain’s King Charles III and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, representing the Allied powers, paid tribute to the tens of thousands of troops who landed on the sandy beaches of Normandy in northern France on 6 June, 1944.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is also attending the ceremonies and holding talks with the leaders – a stark reminder of the conflict after Russia’s February 2022 invasion.

“This event and day serve as a reminder of the courage and determination demonstrated in the pursuit of freedom and democracy. Allies defended Europe’s freedom then, and Ukrainians do so now. Unity prevailed then, and true unity can prevail today,” he said in a post on X.

The biggest guests of honour were some 200 surviving veterans in their late 90s or even over 100, some in wheelchairs, huddled in blankets as they gazed over the shores.

“We recall the lesson that comes to us, again and again, across the decades: free nations must stand together to oppose tyranny,” King Charles III said at the British memorial at Ver-sur-Mer that overlooks Gold beach, one of the landing sites for British troops.

“Let us pray such sacrifice need never be made again,” he said.

He also noted that veterans were becoming fewer, adding: “Our obligation to remember them, what they stood for and what they achieved for us all can never diminish.”

The events also provide a hugely symbolic backdrop to talks on how Ukraine can gain back ground after Russian advances.

Macron has already sought to break taboos by refusing to rule out sending troops to Ukraine, a position that unsettled some European Union allies.

But there have been shifts in recent weeks, with the West showing readiness to allow Ukraine to use weapons provided by them to strike targets in Russia, and France pushing for the deployment of European military instructors in Ukraine.

No Russian official has been invited, underlining Moscow’s current pariah status despite the decisive Soviet contribution to defeating Nazism in World War II.

During a meeting with foreign news outlets in Saint Petersburg on Wednesday evening, President Vladimir Putin shrugged off the lack of an invitation for Russia, saying “let them celebrate without us”.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the world must continue to stand up for democracy.

“Democracy is still under threat today. It is threatened by aggressors who want to redraw borders,” he said at the Canadian ceremony in nearby Courseulles-Sur-Mer.

“Our way of life did not happen by accident, and it won’t continue without effort.”

Biden, born in 1942 during World War II, was expected to promote the United States as a defender of democracy and international alliances, contrasting himself against election rival Donald Trump during a state visit that will last until Sunday.

He met surviving American veterans at the American memorial. “The greatest generation ever, man,” he told one veteran, adding he could not believe he was 102.

The 1944 operation kept secret from the Germans saw Allies land on five beaches spread across the Normandy coast: Omaha and Utah for the Americans, Gold and Sword for the British and Juno for the British and Canadians.

By the end of what became known as “the longest day”, 156,000 Allied troops with 20,000 vehicles had landed in Nazi-occupied northern France despite facing a hail of bullets, artillery and aircraft fire.

The landings marked the beginning of the end of the Nazi occupation of Western Europe, though months of intense and bloody fighting still lay ahead before victory over the regime of Adolf Hitler.

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