French President Jacques Chirac spoke about the important role Russia played in the World War II victory.
Speaking on Sunday at an international ceremony in Arromanches on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Allied forces' landing in Normandy, the French president paid tribute to "the heroic soldiers of the Red Army whose victories at Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk opened a way for an irrepressible advance" toward the defeat of the Nazis.
Mr. Chirac also revered the memory of "all soldiers of freedom" and of the comrades-in-arms who participated in the landing and battle in Normandy six decades ago: the Americans, the British, the Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders and the citizens of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Greece, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
The French president also mentioned his compatriots who fought for their country's freedom in foreign military units or in the Resistance.
The ceremony in Arromanches, a small town on the shore of the English Channel where the first headquarters of the Allied forces was located, was attended by veterans of landing operation and the leaders of the Allied countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President George Bush, Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The heads of state, who were invited to the ceremony, arrived in Arromanches from Caen in one bus, except Queen Elizabeth II and Mr. Bush, who arrived in Arromanches independently and were accompanied by their own entourages.
For the first time, a representative of Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, was invited to the ceremony.
In the regard, the French president noted that, "for a few past decades the irreconcilable enemies in the past have been building a common present."
"Celebrating the victory of peace and democracy, we must not forget our duty to preserve the heritage of our fathers and pass it on to the next generations," stressed Mr. Chirac.
The playing of the Marseillaise and an artillery salute opened the ceremony.
The flags of the countries that participated in the opening of the second front were carried past the stands and then there was a parade of veterans. The heads of state stood up to greet the D-Day veterans.