The celebrations in honor of the 70th anniversary of D-Day landings were held in Normandy on June 6th. This operation opened Europe a second front against fascism. The heads of states and government of 17 countries came to France to take part in the ceremony. Vladimir Putin conducted a series of important meetings before the ceremony. In the afternoon of June 6, Putin arrived in Deauville, where the celebrations were held.
Putin's participation in the celebrations in Normandy became his first visit to Western Europe since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine. It was believed that the world leaders will thus be able to discuss the agenda in private meetings. Before flying to France, Putin had made it clear that he was ready to talk to any of his counterparts.
The French authorities invited the heads of the countries, whose soldiers were on both sides in the fighting in Normandy. The heads of states and governments of 17 countries, including the British Queen, arrived to take part in the event. British Prime Minister David Cameron, on the way to Paris, changed his work schedule and came to Charles de Gaulle Airport the night before to hold talks with Putin before a meeting with Hollande. According to news agencies, the meeting - the first after the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis - started without a traditional handshake, but the dialogue between the two leaders was very substantative. Putin and Cameron discussed ways to resolve the situation in Ukraine and resume dialogue between Russia and the UK. After the conversation, Putin and Cameron shook hands, but it happened off cameras.
In Operation Overlord, Britain was one of the main participants and the main beachhead for landing expeditionary force under the command of Eisenhower. Seventy years later, descendants of British paratroopers decided to celebrate this day riding vintage motorcycles across the battlefields of their grandparents.
Prior to the official ceremony, every Western leader decided to use an opportunity to build a political springboard for their countries in a conversation with Putin. They were literally lining up in a queue to meet with the President of Russia personally. The meeting between Hollande and Putin was conducted in the Elysee Palace. The two leaders shook hands on the steps of the residence. It was Putin's first meeting with his French counterpart this year, although they had had five phone conversations before. The two leaders discussed the Ukrainian crisis, termination of the punitive operation in the south-east and Russia's interaction with the EU and NATO. Before the meeting, the French leader said that he would never forget that the Russian nation gave millions of lives in World War II.
From Paris, Putin traveled to the resort town of Deauville, where he will have a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who can become a mediator in the negotiations between Russia and the United States. Although there are no official meetings planned between Putin and Obama, experts do not exclude a possibility of the so-called corridor meeting. Noteworthy, for the first time since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, Obama admitted that Russia had the right to pursue its own interests in connection with what is happening in eastern Ukraine.
Today, Putin will also take part in the international commemorative ceremony on the coast of the English Channel, where the Normandy operation began. The events of 70 years ago serve yet another reason to prevent new conflicts on the European continent and find common ways to restore peace in Ukraine.