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Western leaders snub Russia's Victory Day

Russian allies will attend, although Western heads of state will not.

By Ed Adamczyk
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft. File Photo: Kevin Dietsch/ UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/c992f2bcfacf82c2e080fa0c2e4b70f1/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft. File Photo: Kevin Dietsch/ UPI | License Photo

MOSCOW, April 21 (UPI) -- Western leaders will be absent from Russia's May 9 Victory Day celebration in Moscow, although U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, confirmed Tuesday he will attend.

The massive commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, what Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the country's "biggest holiday," will include a parade involving 16,000 Russian soldiers, 200 armored vehicles and 150 aircraft. Tefft's confirmation of his presence is an official indication that U.S. President Barack Obama, like most Western heads of state, will not be there, a diplomatic snub to protest Russian activity in Ukraine.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is expected to attend, his first foreign visit as leader, as is Cuban President Raul Castro. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she will miss the festivities, but will travel to Moscow the following day to present a wreath at a war memorial.

Russia, officially, is angered by the boycott of Western leaders and suspects Washington is behind the action.

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"Nobody in the West is even hiding that the whole issue of not coming to Russia is not based on what the population of Europe thinks about the issue, but is owing to extreme pressure from Washington. Everyone seems to have forgotten that heads of state are there to reflect the interests of their own countries and people. No one has asked the European veterans of the Second World War whether it is right to boycott those who lost hundreds of thousands of people while saving Europe from fascism," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the British newspaper the Guardian.

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A source of discomfort with attendance at the event has been Russian propaganda linking its seizure of Crimea and its involvement in Ukraine with victory in World War II. Last year, Putin celebrated Victory Day in Sevastapol, the port city of newly-acquired Crimea, where he addressed Russian veterans and the Navy. Putin called his country's World War II triumph an inspiration for taking Crimea.

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