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Obama shows Russians respect

RUSSIA said yesterday that United States President Barack Obama was the sole Western leader not to belittle the Soviet role in defeating Nazi Germany at this month's D-Day commemorations.

With relations between Moscow and the West still tense after the conflicts in Georgia last August and January's gas crisis, Moscow singled out the June 6 Normandy event as the latest example of the West snubbing Russia.

Obama is due to visit Moscow next month in an effort to improve strained ties.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Obama's speech recognized the Russian contribution to the war effort, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had said the D-Day landings had decided the war and ignored the fierce fighting on the Eastern Front.

"The liberation of Europe itself would have been impossible, were it not for the millions of our soldiers who paid for it with their blood and lives in the battles against the best sections of Hitler's Wehrmacht."

There was no explanation given by Nesterenko for Russia's belated response, coming two weeks after the memorial events.

"We do not intend to diminish the importance of the battle for Normandy and question the bravery of soldiers of our allies in the Second World War but not when it favors the correct assessment of the war and its outcome," said Nesterenko.

Despite its non-aggression pact with Moscow, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, prompting Soviet leader Josef Stalin to take an active part in forging an anti-Hitler coalition with the Western powers.



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