Spilnota Detector Media

Oleksandr Siedin

Detector Media analyst

Andriy Pylypenko

Detector Media analyst

Arsenii Subarion

Detector Media analyst

Українською читайте тут.

June 6, 2024, marks the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings, the largest naval invasion in world history, in which 156,000 troops from Great Britain, the United States, France, and 14 other countries of the anti-Hitler coalition had participated, initiating the liberation of France and several other Western European countries.

The early commemorations of the Normandy landings were initially modest and not used as a platform for diplomacy. However, by the 21st century, the celebration of this anniversary has evolved into a significant event. Leaders from the former members of the anti-Hitler coalition are invited, and political dialogues and consultations often occur during these celebrations. Vladimir Putin was invited to the 60th and 70th anniversaries in 2004 and 2014, the latter despite Russia's hybrid armed aggression against Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea.

In 2004, Putin spoke in Normandy, offering a perspective that emphasized Russia's imperial ambitions while downplaying or ignoring the contributions of other countries to the collective victory—such as the importance of Lend-Lease, the anti-Hitler resistance in Europe, and the opening of the Italian front in 1943. Later, as Ukraine pursued European integration, Putin claimed that the Soviet Union would have won World War II even without Ukrainians: "We would have won anyway because we are a nation of victors."

In 2014, the "Normandy format" was established—a meeting of the political leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany. At that time, the leaders of the major Western nations still harbored hopes for a swift and peaceful resolution of the conflict. They aimed to restore business relations with Russia as soon as possible, imposing relatively mild sanctions. Western politicians organized a personal meeting with Putin, resulting in a handshake with the newly elected President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. Later, in 2019, the "Normandy Four" meeting marked the first official face-to-face encounter between the next Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Putin.

Amidst the backdrop of yet another anniversary of the Normandy landing, Russian propaganda is attempting to manipulate the memory of these historic events and rewrite history to serve its own agenda. DM delves into the messages conveyed on the eve and during the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

SS Zelenskyy

On June 5, just before the commemoration of the anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy, Putin personally commented on his absence at the ceremony in France, to which Russia was not invited. "We do not exclude. The Americans and Europeans do it. We are for it. We didn't impose sanctions on Europe; they are imposing sanctions on us," Putin said, simultaneously addressing the topic that genuinely concerns the Russian dictator—the sanctions imposed by the West. At the same time, Putin questioned Zelenskyy's right to attend the celebrations in France: "Listen, how can you celebrate such a solemn occasion in the fight against Nazism with those who glorify neo-Nazis and make them national heroes?"

In April, Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Kremlin "received no invitation." Later, he mentioned that next year's celebration of the "80th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War" is much more significant for Russia. "This is our main priority for memorial activities, and this is what we focus on." Thus, Moscow again dismissed an event to which it was not invited.

Telegram channels' propagandists made "clear conclusions" even before Putin's comments were made public. An anonymous Telegram channel with over 2.5 million subscribers argued that France refused to invite the Russian delegation at the behest of its "Ukrainian allies." The channel cited a cynical quote attributed to Stalin, which Western diplomats allegedly used to justify Putin's absence from the events: "No people, no problem." Additionally, commenting on a Reuters report stating that France did not invite Russian representatives due to the concerns of its allies, one of the reports, viewed over 500,000 times, claimed, "The West is willing to do everything to exclude us (Russia) from the victors of Nazism." Propagandists accused US President Joe Biden of rewriting history, asserting that his comments about the US role in the victory over Germany in World War II "diminish the heroism of the Soviet soldier in the eyes of Western people."

There were also references to the "Galicia (Galychyna) SS Division." Several Moldovan Telegram channels monitored the situation and quickly linked Zelenskyy's visit to Normandy with a "dialogue with a Nazi." They questioned "with whom" Biden should meet, suggesting that while Macron "at least represents the French resistance and the Fifth Republic of General de Gaulle," it is unclear whom Zelenskyy represents—"except the SS division 'Galicia'." This exemplifies the historical revisionism of Russian propaganda, which denies Ukrainians the opportunity to participate in the collective commemoration of World War II events.

Additionally, there were mentions of the ex-prime minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, whom anonymous Telegram channels accused of claiming that the Soviet Union "treacherously attacked Ukraine and Germany." These narratives culminated in the conclusion that the West is supposedly willing to tolerate a "Nazi Ukraine," using memorial ceremonies as a means of normalizing this stance.

How Macron was about to "invade" Ukraine

During the celebrations, Macron announced that France would transfer Mirage 2000 aircraft to Ukraine, train pilots, and prepare a brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In light of Macron's public activities and initiatives, a significant block of messages was dedicated to France on the eve of the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings and the meetings between the presidents of the USA, Ukraine, and France during the celebrations.

The thesis that if Putin had not been invited, then "they don't want to see any of the Russians in France" was advanced. Additionally, the authors of a Telegram channel (with over 1 million subscribers) wrote that the French leader "risks highlighting his isolation" if he announces the dispatch of French troops to Ukraine during a ceremony dedicated to the unity of the allies. Propagandists conveyed the idea that France had been assigned the role of a "trial bullet" to gauge Russia's reaction to the "official participation of NATO troops in the conflict" (the Russian-Ukrainian war). Another channel (with more than 1.7 million subscribers) expanded on this notion, referencing a column in The Washington Post. The post, viewed by over 400,000 people, claimed that Emmanuel Macron is bluffing and could face "serious and unpredictable consequences" if Russian leadership reacts aggressively to his ideas about sending French instructors to Ukraine. However, it did not specify what exactly these "more serious than the consequences after the transfer of various weapon systems" implications for the President of France might be.

Propagandists also used the traditional tactic of quoting European marginal, far-right, or far-left politicians. This time, an anonymous channel spread a photo collage of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, depicting him in a hat similar to the one worn by Napoleon Bonaparte and a bulletproof vest. This image was accompanied by a partial quote (without reference) from French politician Florian Philippot, leader of the Patriots party (which split from Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front party a few years ago). According to the post, the French politician "should be ashamed that Zelenskyy is invited to the ceremony in Normandy at all."

The block of statements about France can be summarized by a post observed while monitoring Russian-language propaganda channels in the Baltic countries. These channels reposted an article from a Russian information site, adding their own "spice" and emphasizing: "If Emmanuel really announces the invasion of Ukraine during the celebrations dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings, it will be very symbolic. Essentially, it would mark the self-destruction of the Fifth Republic."

Propagandists equate the "Macron regime," in the event of such an announcement, to the collaborationist government of World War II, the French puppet government in Vichy, which collaborated with Germany: "The new regime, which should trace its history not from de Gaulle's legacy but from the French state in Vichy." Previously, propagandists labeled Macron as a successor of General de Gaulle and a continuation of the Fifth Republic's traditions. Now, they deny this and equate him to a "Vichyite." This example illustrates that any politician who dares to discuss plans to resist Russian aggression is instantly deemed "illegitimate" and branded as a "Nazi" or "fascist" by Russian propagandists.

Biden is moving the "red lines" toward Moscow

Shortly before the Peace Summit scheduled for June 15-16 in Switzerland, Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a series of foreign visits to bolster the international support coalition. At the end of May, Zelenskyy visited Spain, Belgium, and Portugal, which added to the list of countries that signed bilateral security agreements with Ukraine. Detector Media has discussed here how Russian agitational propaganda forces devalued these important visits and agreements. At the beginning of June, Zelenskyy expanded his diplomatic activities to include Asian countries. On June 1, he arrived in Singapore to participate in the Shangri-La Dialogue, a forum for security discussions in the Asia-Pacific region. Other delegates at the conference included US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun. On the evening of June 2, Zelenskyy arrived for an official visit to the Philippines, and on June 5, he also visited Qatar.

Russian propaganda has relentlessly sought to undermine both this international tour of Zelenskyy and the upcoming Peace Summit, asserting that its failure is a foregone conclusion. Despite this, more than 100 countries will send their delegations to the summit, with China declining to participate. The USA will also not be represented at the highest level, as Vice President Kamala Harris will lead the delegation. Earlier, in a video message, Zelenskyy urged the personal participation of the United States and China leaders at the summit.

Also, only three of the ten points of the "Zelenskyy formula" (nuclear security, food security, and the release of prisoners), which Kyiv advocates as a roadmap to sustainable peace, will be discussed. Propagandists emphasized the absence of the leaders of the USA and China and the thematic narrowing of the summit to attract more countries. For example, the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, mocked the upcoming summit as follows: "Zelenskyy asked the President of the Philippines to send mental health specialists to Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Australia announced that the country will be represented at the meeting on Ukraine in Switzerland by the Minister of Public Services and the Disability Insurance System. After all, Zelenskyy told the truth, and the West recognized it. These are precisely the issues that the so-called 'Swiss conference' participants should address."

Before Zelenskyy visited France, propaganda promoted the notion of the Ukrainian President's failed diplomacy. One pro-Russian resource wrote that the President of Ukraine is "wandering abroad" against the backdrop of a critical situation at the front—and such a coincidence suggests a swift ending for him.

Another stage in Zelenskyy's diplomatic activity was a visit to France for events dedicated to the Day of the Allied landings in Normandy, where the President of Ukraine also met with the President of the United States, Joe Biden. The next meeting between Biden and Zelenskyy is scheduled for June 13-15 on the sidelines of the G7 summit, which will be held in Italy. The backdrop for these meetings was the partial lifting by the USA, following other Western countries, of restrictions on the use of weapons supplied to Ukraine for strikes on Russian territory. This primarily concerns strikes on enemy troops amassed on the border for attacks and shelling of Ukraine. Kyiv is seeking further lifting of restrictions and permission to use long-range Western weapons to strike deep into Russian territories spanning hundreds of kilometers. At the American cemetery in Normandy, Biden outlined the adjusted restrictions for Ukraine: "We don't allow strikes 200 miles deep into Russia, and we don't allow strikes on Moscow, on the Kremlin."

Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion, Western countries, particularly the United States, have eased restrictions on Ukraine's weapons supply and use. Two years ago, the debate centered around the supply of Western-style tanks, but now Ukraine has received both tanks and long-range missiles. Additionally, F-16 fighter jets are expected in the near future, and restrictions on strikes on the aggressor's territory have been partially lifted.

"But the answer to Putin came from Washington. The USA assumes the right to determine who should be granted permission to strike Moscow. The red lines are shifting," commented a propaganda channel with more than 800,000 subscribers regarding Biden. Earlier, on June 5, during a meeting with international journalists, Putin threatened Western politicians in response to Kyiv's approval of strikes on Russian territory using its own weapons, threatening to supply similar weapons to forces hostile to the West for attacks "on sensitive targets in countries that act against Russia." Detector Media discussed separately here how corrections in Western policy are making Moscow nervous and leading to escalation threats, including nuclear blackmail.

Despite the already announced format of US participation in the summit in Switzerland and Biden's schedule (according to Bloomberg, he will hold a pre-election event in California on these dates), the pro-Russian channel with more than 1 million subscribers claimed on June 6, citing "own insiders," that Zelenskyy would use a personal meeting with Biden again to request his personal attendance at the Peace Summit. Predictably, propagandists would later emphasize that Biden, supposedly, refused Zelenskyy again.

In his speech at the ceremony, Biden compared Russia's invasion of Ukraine to the Nazi occupation of France. Pro-Russian resources typically made disparaging comments on Biden's speech at the ceremony. One of the Z-propagandists, on his channel with more than 140,000 subscribers, captioned a series of videos featuring Biden at a Normandy ceremony as: "Adventures of an old android in France."

Russian propaganda on anonymous Telegram channels on the eve of President Zelenskyy's visit to events dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings focused on several key topics. In particular, it spread claims about the potential deployment of French instructors and other military personnel to Ukraine (sometimes presented as an established fact). Interpreting Macron's words at their discretion, propagandists suggested the possibility of using Western weapons for strikes on Russian territory (allegedly stating that "French missiles will bomb Kursk and Belgorod airports"). Additionally, attention was drawn to the meeting between Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden, at which the latter was supposedly going to "officially, not secretly" permit the use of American weapons on Russian soil.

In an official statement regarding Putin's invitation to the ceremony in Normandy and countering the Russian propagandists' narrative, the French side reported that Russia does not meet the criteria for participation in the ceremony, as it is conducting an aggressive war against Ukraine, with no sign of de-escalation. Nevertheless, France did not cancel commemorative events dedicated to the bravery and sacrifice of Soviet soldiers, and it also organized special historical colloquia that emphasized the importance of the Eastern Front.

Russia traditionally instrumentalizes and "weaponizes" the memory of historical events, attempting to distort and rewrite history. Anything that does not align with the Kremlin's narrative is, at best, ridiculed and, at worst, exaggerated and twisted. Despite agitational propaganda’s speculation, the participation of the President of Ukraine and Putin's absence from marking one of the pivotal events of the war against Nazism clearly presents who is the true heir to the anti-Hitler coalition.

Main page illustration and infographic credits: Natalia Lobach

NGO “Detector Media” has been working for our readers for over 20 years. In times of elections, revolutions, pandemics and war, we continue to fight for quality journalism. Our experts develop media literacy of the audience, advocate for the rights of journalists, and refute Russian disinformation.

“Detector Media” resumes the work of our Community and invites those who believe that the media should be better: more professional, truthful and transparent.


Support us. Become part of the project!

Every day, our team prepares the freshest and independent materials for you. We would be extremely grateful for any support you may have. Your donations are an opportunity to do even more.

Support us