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Hollande says Putin welcome to attend D-Day ceremonies

French President Francois Hollande (C) lays a wreath at the statue of late president General De Gaulle, during a ceremony to mark the end of World War Two in Paris, May 8, 2014. REUTERS/Ian Langsdon/Pool

PARIS: French President Francois Hollande said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was welcome to attend ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June, despite the standoff over Ukraine.

"We may have differences with Vladimir Putin but I have not forgotten and will never forget that the Russian people gave millions of lives" during World War II, he told France 2 television.

"I told Vladimir Putin that as the representative of the Russian people, he is welcome to the ceremonies."

Western leaders including US President Barack Obama and Britain's Queen Elizabeth are also due to attend the events on June 6 to commemorate the Normandy landings that marked the beginning of the liberation of continental Europe from the Nazis in World War II.

Putin had said earlier this week he did not rule out attending the ceremonies despite the Ukraine crisis, the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

In March, the United States and other top economic powers cancelled a G8 summit with Russia planned for the Black Sea resort of Sochi in June and replaced it with a G7 meeting to be held in Brussels.

The West has also imposed sanctions on Russia over its stance on Ukraine.

 

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