Moscow: Vladimir Putin was due today to host German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will commemorate the memory of Soviet soldiers killed in WWII after she stayed away from Russia’s military parade.
Russia yesterday staged a huge parade to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany but most Western countries boycotted the festivities over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. In an apparent compromise, Merkel was today expected to lay a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Soldier and hold talks with Putin. In February, Putin hosted Merkel and French leader Francois Hollande for crunch talks over Ukraine, in what was the German leader’s first Russian visit since the start of the crisis.
In recent months Merkel has played a key negotiation role in the Ukraine crisis, acting as a go-between for an isolated Kremlin and the West. Putin, who watched yesterday’s parade seated next to Chinese President Xi Jinping, shrugged off the Western snub. “Everyone we wanted to see was here,” he said in televised remarks yesterday evening. But he also thanked the Soviet Union’s key WWII allies the United States, Britain and France – for their “contribution” to victory as well as all those who battled against the Nazis in Germany. Speaking to Czech President Milos Zeman, one of the few European leaders who flew to Moscow for the festivities, Putin said yesterday he was ready for detente with West. “It was not us who initiated the chill in relations with Europe but I hope that thanks to politicians like you we will manage not only to revive them completely but to also move forward,” Putin said. The Czech leftwinger leader for his part said he was
confident that “normal ties will replace the chill.” Like Putin, many Russians shrugged off the Western no-show as they celebrated Victory Day well into the night, singing war-era songs and feting veterans. A whopping 500,000 people marched through central Moscow with portraits of their relatives who fought in the war, in the biggest march of Putin’s 15-year rule. The 62-year-old strongman wowed Russians by unexpectedly joining the mammoth procession on Red Square, a portrait of his veteran father Vladimir in his hand.