Important resources to help you navigate the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Wisconsin
Hub for reliable, timely news about COVID-19 pandemic

White House: President Trump not visiting Moscow for V-Day celebrations

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. President Donald Trump, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) (R-KY) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R) (R-MO), arrives at the U.S. Capitol on March 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump was schedule to meet with members of the U.S. Senate to discuss plans for combating coronavirus. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

MOSCOW — U.S. President Donald Trump will not be coming to Moscow for Victory Day celebrations on May 9, the White House announced Tuesday in a disappointment for the Kremlin.

The White House confirmed that President Trump has declined the Kremlin invitation to attend Russia’s Victory Day celebrations on the 75th anniversary of World War II victory — the nation’s most important holiday.

President Trump said last year he appreciated the invitation, but wasn’t sure if he could go as the celebration falls “right in the middle of political season.”

“Via diplomatic channels, we have received information that the (U.S.) president will not be coming,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday, adding that it remains unclear who will represent the U.S. on the Victory Day in Moscow.

In an interview with the state-run Tass news agency, a part of which was released Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be “a mistake” for world leaders not to attend the Victory Day celebrations this year.

“I think that, concerning former members of the anti‑Hitler alliance, the right thing to do would be to attend, from both a domestic political stance and a moral one,” Putin said. “We look forward to seeing them and we will be glad if they come. If not, well, that’s their choice. But I think that would be a mistake for them.”

The Red Square parade is set to involve 14,000 troops and 300 military vehicles in a massive show of Russian military might.

White House officials and President Trump allies feared that the trip to Moscow in an election year could be politically damaging. While they insisted that President Trump has been tough on Russia, deploying new sanctions, they believed that a visit to the country by President Trump — which would have been a first since he took office — could play into Democrats’ charges that the president has not been forceful enough in condemning Russian election interference and its invasion of Ukraine.

For Putin, the Red Square parade offers a chance to have global leaders pay homage to Russia for its role in defeating the Nazis. Western leaders’ attendance of the celebrations would mark a major diplomatic coup for the Russian leader.

Russia-West ties have plunged to post-Cold War lows after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and support for pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. and the European Union have slapped Russia with several rounds of sanctions that have limited its access to international financial markets and cut the flow of Western energy and defense technologies. Winning a respite from the penalties has been a top priority for the Kremlin.

While a quick lifting of the sanctions appears unlikely, Western leaders’ presence at the Kremlin parade could provide momentum for mending ties.

Putin already has scored a strong point when French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to attend the Moscow festivities.

Since last year, Macron has spoken repeatedly about the need to re-engage Russia to prevent it from forming an alliance with China. In December, Macron hosted Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss a peace settlement for eastern Ukraine.

It wasn’t clear if Merkel would also attend the Victory Day celebrations. In a diplomatic ruse, she visited Moscow a day after the 2015 Victory Day, shunning the parade and laying flowers at the Unknown Soldier’s tomb.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hasn’t said whether he plans to attend. Russia-British ties, which already had been frayed by the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and other issues, plummeted further over the poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer and his daughter in Salisbury, England, in March 2018. The Kremlin has staunchly denied any official connection to the attack.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.