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Western leaders join veterans to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France

Western leaders will commemorate the World War II D-Day landings in northern France in 1944 on Thursday to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation, mindful of the more than two-year war that has raged since Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

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French President Emmanuel Macron will receive US President Joe Biden, British King Charles III and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, representing the Allied powers whose troops gave their lives in the landings on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

They will reflect on the immense sacrifices made by the tens of thousands of troops on the sandy beaches and cliffs of Normandy, often far from their homes, under intense German fire.

But with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky joining Western leaders in Normandy, the ceremonies will provide a hugely symbolic backdrop to talks about how Ukraine can gain ground after Russia’s advance.

No Russian official has been invited, underscoring Moscow’s pariah status in the West despite the Soviet Union’s decisive contribution to defeating Nazism in World War II.

Separate national ceremonies will take place before most leaders gather for an international ceremony from 2pm GMT on Omaha beach in Normandy, together with Zelensky and also German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The most honored guests will be the surviving veterans. About 200 are expected, a number decreasing each year, with most at least in their late 90s and some over 100. This could be the last major anniversary they attend.

“If I could go again, I would go again. I am happy that we sacrificed ourselves so that others (can) have a good life,” John Mines, 99, who was among the first wave of soldiers on D-Day, told AFP. on the ferry crossing the Channel to the events.

“They are all heroes.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Follow FRANCE 24’s live coverage of all the day’s events.

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