As nations come together this week to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Russia -- the country that prides itself on playing the key role in the Allies' victory over Nazi Germany -- will be absent.

No Russian official representing Vladimir Putin's government has been invited by the Elysee Palace due to the Kremlin's war against Ukraine, now in its third year. Representatives of the anti-Kremlin opposition and civil society will also not be present.

French President Emmanuel Macron is to host US President Joe Biden, British King Charles III and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the shores of Normandy, representing the three main countries involved in the landings on June 6, 1944.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and about 200 surviving war veterans are also expected to attend.

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During World War II the Soviet Union, in which Russia was the largest of 15 republics, was allied with Britain and the United States against Nazi Germany. The USSR bore the brunt of the battles until the Allies opened a second front on D-Day and suffered the greatest number of casualties in the war, with more than 20 million killed.

While some Russian dissidents agreed that Moscow officials should not be present, they said Russians should not be excluded altogether from the hugely symbolic celebrations.

"It is not okay that representatives of Russia, which sacrificed millions in this war, will not be there," veteran rights campaigner Lev Ponomarev, a co-founder of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Memorial group, told AFP.

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Sources told Kyiv Post that various brands of gasoline and diesel fuel with a total volume of 12.5 thousand cubic meters were stored there.

"I believe that the opposition could and should have been there," said 82-year-old Ponomarev, who lives in France after fleeing threats of arrest in Russia.

"We are representatives of the Russia that defeated Hitlerism if only because we have stood up to Putin's fascism", he said.

- Change of tack -

Olga Prokopieva, head of the Paris-based association Russie-Libertes for anti-Putin exiles, struck a similar note, saying it was important for Russia to be represented at the D-Day ceremonies.

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"The absence of Russia will be used by Russian propaganda, this will be shown as a humiliation of the Russian people."

In April, organisers said that Russian officials -- but not Putin -- would be invited to the ceremonies in Normandy, drawing protests from Ukrainians.

The Russie-Libertes association sent a letter to Macron's aides, suggesting that instead France extend an invitation to members of the embattled Russian opposition and civil society such as Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Alexei Navalny who has vowed to continue his cause, and Evgenia Kara-Murza, wife of Vladimir Kara-Murza, a campaigner jailed in Russia over his opposition to the war.

Last week the French presidency said however that a Russian delegation will not be present at the ceremonies, "considering the war of aggression that Russia is waging against Ukraine that has intensified over the past several weeks".

After France changed tack over Russia, Canada's Trudeau said he believed all countries involved in WWII must be recognised, despite "our extreme disagreement" with the Kremlin.

Paris said the USSR's "decisive contribution" during WWII will be mentioned during the ceremony at Omaha Beach and during events at cemeteries containing the remains of Soviet soldiers.

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Macron at the weekend also hosted Navalnaya for a meeting at the Elysee Palace.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there had been no discussion about Russian officials attending. "We have no contacts of any type on this issue."

- Ceasefire call -

Dmitry Muratov, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 and met Macron in Paris in April, said he personally did not care who attends celebrations and parades.

"They're vastly overrated," he told AFP, adding the surviving World War II veterans were the most important guests.

Muratov, who co-founded top Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, said it was paramount to stop Moscow's war against Ukraine, urging the D-Day veterans to issue a call for a ceasefire "in memory of those who died for peace in World War II."

"This would be very important for us all," he said.

"It is these people who can demand from Putin and from the world that the fighting be stopped."

Historically, Operation Overlord has been a source of tensions with the Kremlin, who has insisted that the Allies took too long to open a second front in Europe.

Putin alluded to the controversy during the Victory Day celebrations on May 9, saying that "for the first three long, difficult years of the Great Patriotic War" the Soviet Union fought against Nazi Germany "virtually one-on-one."

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Putin attended the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2004, alongside Jacques Chirac. He was also present at the events commemorating the 70th anniversary in 2014, despite Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

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