Hollande evokes Ukraine, Middle East violence as Paris marks 70th World War II Victory in Europe day
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French President François Hollande laid a wreath on Friday at the tomb of an unknown soldier at a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to mark the victory over Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945. On the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II he pointed out that conflict continues in Ukraine and in the activity of Islamist armed groups in the Middle East.
“We didn’t experience the war, we see it as a far-off reality, sometimes abstract, even thought it is not far from us, in Ukraine, further still in the Middle East,” said Hollande. “There is also terrorism which can strike us, racism and anti-Semitism.”
Hollande also referred to the French citizens who have left to fight for jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose mother was born in France, came to Paris to lay a wreath under the Arc de Triomphe and greeted veterans with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Seventy years ago “a handful of war-scarred countries started down a new path that united a continent”, said Kerry. “Together we stand firm with the people of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression […] and in the fight against the Islamic State.”
Victory in Europe Day is celebrated all across the continent but several countries have refused to attend Saturday's celebrations in Moscow due to tensions over Ukraine.
Historians believe between 40 and 60 million people were killed during the conflict.