17:23 GMT19 February 2020
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    Warsaw invited officials from nearly forty states, including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to an event commemorating the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II, but did not invite Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming his presence would be “inappropriate.”

    The Soviet Union played the decisive role in defeating Hitler’s Reich and ensuring the future of European democracy, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Sunday in a statement commemorating the anniversary of the beginning of World War II.

    “There are various ways to assess Soviet diplomatic efforts during the initial stages of the Second World War, but it cannot be denied that it was namely the Soviet Union which defeated Nazism, liberated Europe and saved European democracy from annihilation,” the foreign ministry wrote on its official social media accounts.

    According to the foreign ministry, the Second World War, which claimed the lives of tens of millions of people, and affected the fates of generations to come, was a tragedy for all of humanity. However, attempts by some countries to “place the blame for this global catastrophe in an equal measure on Hitler’s Germany and the Soviet Union” was really an attempt “to besmirch contemporary Russia,” the ministry said.

    “It is for this reason that it is so important to draw on concrete facts and historical documents, which characterize the complexity of the pre-war situation, and reveal the true causal relationships which brought the world to this tragic cataclysm,” the ministry stressed.

    On Sunday, dozens of heads of state, government, and international organisations arrived in Warsaw, Poland to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II. Polish officials did not invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the event.

    Late last week, Poland’s deputy foreign minister told local media that Russia’s president had not been invited due to its “modern criteria” for guests of the event, which include members of the European Union, NATO, as well as participants in the EU’s ‘Eastern Partnership’ programme. Russia, the official claimed, was not interested in paying tribute to the event “in the spirit of historical truth.”

    Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that any commemorative events to the start of World War II cannot be considered meaningful without Russia’s participation, given Russia’s immense contributions in the Allied effort to defeat Nazism.

    Conflicting Views of History

    In recent years, authorities in Poland have sought to blame the USSR, and by association its formal legal successor Russia, for the start of the Second World War, citing the German-Soviet Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on non-aggression signed on August 23, 1939 by German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. One week after the pact was signed, on September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Two weeks after that, on September 17, 1939, once the Polish government had fled the country, the USSR moved into and annexed territories seized by Poland during the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921, in accordance with one of the pact’s protocols.

    The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed after months of failed negotiations between the USSR, France and the UK on the prospects of an alliance against Germany, with the sticking point being Warsaw’s refusal to allow Soviet troops to transit through its Poland’s territory in the event of war. These talks themselves came after a series of aggressive actions by Hitler’s Germany, including the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, the annexation of Austria in March 1938, and the carving up of Czechoslovakia between October 1938 and March 1939 together with Poland and Hungary.

    Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain chats with German Foreign Affairs Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop upon his arrival at the Munich airport, Sept. 15, 1938
    © AP Photo /
    Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain chats with German Foreign Affairs Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop upon his arrival at the Munich airport, Sept. 15, 1938

    Over three quarters of a century after it was signed, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact continues to stir up debate among historians, with some condemning it as an unforgivable act of collusion between the Soviet leadership and Adolf Hitler. Others, including former Russian minister of defence Sergei Ivanov, insist that the treaty gave the USSR the much-needed time and buffer territory to prepare for the inevitable confrontation with the Third Reich.

    During World War II, the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the casualties among the Allies in Europe, with over 26 million people, among them 8.6 million Red Army soldiers, killed in the war. This included 600,000 Soviet troops killed during the liberation of Poland from Nazi occupation between 1944 and 1945. During the course of the war, between 75 to 80 percent of the military resources of the Third Reich were tied up in the fight against the Red Army at any one time, with many key battles, including Stalingrad, Kursk and the Berlin operation taking place on the Eastern Front.

    © Sputnik / РИА Новости
    Soviet troops pose as Polish soldier raises Polish flag over Warsaw in January 1945. The liberation of Poland cost the Red Army 600,000 casualties.

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