"Whether I was invited or not, we do not invite everyone to any event," Putin said. "Why do I have to be invited to an event anywhere, am I a wedding general or something? I'm tired of my own business, no problem at all."
But Putin also used the issue to draw attention to a long-standing Russian complaint: the notion that the Soviet Union's massive victims were somehow overlooked in World War II in the West.
"Regarding the opening of the Second Front, I draw your attention to the fact that this is the Second Front," Putin said, referring to the landings in Normandy. Counting the number of divisions, the strength of the Wehrmacht [the German army] fighting on the Eastern Front against Soviet troops, and the number of troops and equipment fighting on the Western Front since 1
Fall of communism
The war on the Eastern Front, known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, claimed a terrible toll and cost the Soviet Union more than 25 million military and civilian lives – more than any other land lost during the war. The war against Nazi Germany ended in the Russian view significantly with the fall of Berlin to the Red Army in 1945.
It is a sensitive issue for Russia. Worship of the Soviet war dead became a secular religion in Russia, especially after the collapse of the USSR and the decline of communism as a guiding ideology.
But the past is not over for Russia. The long shadow of World War II still hangs over Russia's foreign policy.
Commenting on the D-Day commemoration ceremony, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at the ceremony, "Normandy landings were not a game The outcome of the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War was victories destined for the Red Army – mainly in Stalingrad and Kursk. For three years Britain and then the US prolonged the opening of the Second Front. "
Zakharova's statements were immediately condemned.
"The USSR bore the brunt of the fight + lost 20 million people!" Nicholas Burns, retired US Ambassador (and former Foreign Ministry spokesman) wrote on Twitter. The US has provided the Red Army with considerable quantities of aircraft, tanks and ammunition, but it is simply wrong that Moscow ignores our soldiers' heroism on D-Day, a turning point in the war in the West . "
Steven Pifer, the former US Ambassador to the Ukraine, was more ingenious.
"Let's see, why was Putin not invited to the D-Day commemoration?" He wrote on Twitter. "It is: (A) The Red Army played no role in the invasion of Normandy. (B) Russia today is waging a low-intensity war against its neighbor after having carried out the largest land grab in Europe since World War II with: (C) Both above. "
Pifer referred here to Russia's annexation of the Crimea in 2014, a move many world leaders had considered after 1945 as a dangerous break in the post-war order in Europe – and which seemed to have some historical parallels with the annexation of the Sudetenland by Hitler in 1938, a prelude to the Second World War.
This may seem like an old story, but Russia keeps playing it. Zakharova has devoted a lot of time in her briefings to exposing the "Munich betrayal" – the 1938 agreement on the cession of the Sudetenland to Germany. The highlighting of the paper waved by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on his return from Munich is a convenient counter-argument: Russia can gloss over the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin, which paved the way for the German invasion Poland in 1939 and the Soviet invasion a few weeks later.
In short, the memory and the massive sacrifice of World War II are still a way for Russia to prevail over both the current and the moral issues.