Speaking to the press in Brussels on Tuesday (5 May), Russian Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov conveyed the message that the EU leaders who decided not to attend the 9 May celebration of the allied victory in World War II are in fact offending his country, who, in his opinion, made the greatest sacrifice to defeat Nazism.
Moscow is organizing an unprecedented extravaganza to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of Second World War in Europe. But a vast majority of EU heads of state and government chose not to attend, because of the crisis in Ukraine, largely instigated by Russia. Chizhov’s intention appears to be to pass a message precisely to those leaders.
In all post-Soviet countries, 9 May is remembered as the “Day of Victory”, marking the end of World War II, which in Russia is called “The Great Patriotic War” and cost the USSR 27 million dead, according to Chizhov.
The capitulation of Nazi Germany took place on 8 May 1945, but it was announced in the USSR on 9 May. This is why Western European countries mark Victory Day on 8 May, while Russia and some other countries commemorate it on 9 May.
The Russian diplomat said that only the civilians who lost their lives during the siege of Leningrad (September 1941 – January 1944), outnumbered all the American and British soldiers killed during WW II. But when it comes to recognising who took Berlin, most Western students provide different answers, he added.
Alluding to the lack of similar cooperation against Islamic State, Chizhov said that the anti-Hitler coalition was an example of alliance and partnership between very different countries, fighting the “biggest evil of that time”.
“If then there was a chance for such a cooperation and alliance, then why not now?” he asked, adding that in his opinion, the lessons of the Cold War had not been learned in the West.
Chizhov acknowledged that from the 28 EU member states, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and Cypriot premier Nikos Anastasiades, together with the President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, would attend.
Overall, the number of heads of state and government who confirmed participation to the Moscow parade was over 20, Chizhov said.
“If one wants to send a political signal, I think this is not a very appropriate occasion”, he said, referring to the EU leaders who would be absent in Moscow on 9 May.
Asked by EurActiv if this statement was some sort of threat to those leaders, he answered: “It’s certainly not a threat. It’s a reminder that there are solemn occasions in our life and they should not be politicized.”
EU leaders in fact are facing the dilemma that by honouring the Red Army that was indeed instrumental in defeating Hitler, they would be seen by their domestic audiences as paying tribute to the same military force which today kills Ukrainians, directly or by proxy, and which annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, in breach of international law.
Chizhov has consistently denied that Russia has anything to do with the undeclared war in eastern Ukraine. This time he described the annexation of Crimea as an operation to provide “safe environment” to the people of Crimea who in his words wanted reunification with Russia, in a moment when “train loads of Ukrainian nationalists” were threatening to start “massacres” in the peninsula.