Important to recognize all behind Second World War victory, including Russia: Trudeau

OTTAWA — As the French government reportedly changes tack on a decision to invite Russian officials to a D-Day commemoration next week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says all countries involved in the Second World War victory must be recognized.

That includes Russia, despite Canada's "extreme disagreement" with its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, as Trudeau put it.

"As we commemorate the victory over fascism and Nazism in World War Two, it's important to recognize all the countries that were involved," Trudeau told reporters in Toronto.

"But that does not preclude our extreme disagreement with the endangering of people around the world, and indeed of the rules-based order that the current Russian regime is involved in."

Trudeau said Moscow must be held accountable for violating fundamental rules about respecting sovereign borders, and that his message to any Russian officials has been consistent.

"If lines on a map can be redrawn by a neighbour with a larger army, then the period of stability that we have known since the end of World War Two would come to an end, and the prosperity and opportunity available — not just to people in Western democracies, but all around the world — would be at risk," he told a Thursday news conference.

Trudeau made the comments after he was asked about reports in European media last week, and whether he'd support Russia's attendance.

Mission Libération, the French government committee organizing the 80th anniversary commemorations for D-Day, told media outlets that it had invited officials from Russia to the event.

The group declined to share the same information on Thursday, hours before media reported that the office of French President Emmanuel Macron said Russia would not be invited.

The committee did not invite President Vladimir Putin, who is subject to an international arrest warrant for war crimes related to the forced transfer of children from Ukraine.

Macron said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will attend the ceremonies, as will Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden.

Bloc Québécois foreign-affairs critic Stéphane Bergeron predicted there would be "awkwardness" at the ceremony, while Liberal MP John McKay said Trudeau should have a message prepared for any Russian officials he encounters.

"It should be straightforward, it should be blunt and it should be (that) Putin needs to leave Ukraine, now," McKay said.

The Russian Embassy in Ottawa reserved comment on Trudeau's remarks. "We are not aware of any Russian participation in the events," a spokesperson wrote. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress did not have an immediate response to Trudeau's statement.

In 2014, former prime minister Stephen Harper said Russia should be part of the 70th anniversary commemorations of D-Day.

"Obviously whatever contemporary difficulties we have with the current regime there — and they're obviously immense — I don't think we want to in any way diminish the Soviet and Russian contribution to the war effort, which was obviously enormous at the time," Harper said just months after Russia's annexation of Crimea.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2024.

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press