MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday that U.S. President Barack Obama was the sole western leader not to belittle the Soviet role in defeating Nazi Germany at this month’s D-Day commemorations.
With relations between Moscow and the west still tense after the Georgia war last August and January’s gas crisis, Moscow singled out the June 6 Normandy event as the latest example of the west snubbing Russia.
Obama is due to visit Moscow next month in an effort to improve strained ties.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Obama’s speech recognized the Russian contribution to the war effort, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had said the D-Day landings had decided the war and ignored the fierce fighting on the Eastern Front.
“The liberation of Europe itself would have been impossible, were it not for the millions of our soldiers who paid for it with their blood and lives in the battles against the best sections of Hitler’s Wehrmacht.”
There was no explanation given by Nesterenko for Russia’s belated response, coming two weeks after the memorial events.
“We do not intend to diminish the importance of the battle for Normandy and question the bravery of soldiers of our allies in the Second World War but not when it favors the correct assessment of the war and its outcome,” said Nesterenko.
Russia is paying increasing attention to interpretations of 20th century history, with the creation of a history commission to re-evaluate major events. The commission has drawn criticism from liberals who say it will be used to rehabilitate Stalin.
An article published on the defense ministry website this month also said Poland triggered the war by not acceding to Hitler’s demands in 1939.
Russia had previously said its former allies had forgotten the sacrifices made by the Soviet Union during World War Two, which cost about 27 million Soviet lives.
Russian histories of World War Two still give little attention to the 1939 pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany which divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence.
Despite its non-aggression pact with Moscow, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, prompting Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to take an active part in forging an anti-Hitler coalition with the Western powers.
Reporting by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton