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Russia's Victory Day preparations overshadowed by Ukraine crisis

Russia's Victory Day preparations overshadowed by Ukraine crisis
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President Putin’s reported plans to attend Friday’s World War II victory parade in Sevastopol – home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet – were still not confirmed on the eve of the event.

Chancellor Merkel has said it would be a “pity” if such an event were held in Crimea, whose annexation by Moscow is considered illegal in the West.

On Thursday Vladimir Putin was in the Russian capital to honour those who lost their lives during the war.

Next month he will meet Western leaders for the first time since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis when he visits France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Attending his own World War II commemorations in Paris, French President François Hollande acknowledged their differences.

But he added: “The Russian people gave millions of lives for our freedom throughout World War II. If there hadn’t been an eastern front, there wouldn’t have been the landing we’re about to celebrate on June 6. That’s why I told Vladimir Putin that as the representative of the Russian people, he is welcome at the ceremonies.”

The Battle of Berlin in 1945 saw the Soviet Red Army overwhelm German resistance, in the last major military offensive of the Second World War in Europe.

President Putin has compared what he calls “bellicose nationalism” in Europe today with the one that brought the Nazis to power.

The Russian leader has linked it to the need to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine.

But his call to delay the planned independence referendum in the east of the country has aroused suspicion about his motives.