German chancellor Angela Merkel will not attend a WWII memorial parade in Moscow on 9 May due to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, confirmed the decision yesterday (11 March), following a report about Mrs Merkel’s boycott of the high-profile event in German weekly Die Zeit. Her spokesman stressed that “In view of the Russian actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, participation would seem inappropriate to us,” but then also added that Mrs Merkel will instead lay a wreath, together with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow the following day.
Other EU Member states, including France, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, have also announced that their leaders would boycott the 9 May event in Russia’s capital city. The office of the French leader, Francois Hollande, cited agenda issues, saying that his prioritizes a meeting on climate change in the Caribbean island of Martinique. On the other hand, the Czech president, Milos Zeman, who is a well-known Putin sympathizer, is the only EU head of state to have confirmed attendance so far. US President Barack Obama will reportedly also not attend the WWII memorial parade.
In a separate but related development yesterday, EU ambassadors agreed during their meeting in Brussels to extend the EU black-list targeting Russian individuals and entities with close links to President Putin for another six months. The current list names 150 people and 37 entities. Moreover, EU leaders will hold a summit next week where they are set to discuss whether to extend the economic sanctions due to expire in July. According to our insider sources in Brussels, the likely outcome of the upcoming summit is that the sanctions imposed against Russia will be extended for another six months, but no new measures will be added.