Russia Trolls West on D-Day: 'Normandy Landing Did Not Have a Decisive Impact on the Outcome of World War II'

Western leaders are gathering in northern France today to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest amphibious military operation in history that became a vital step on the road to defeating Nazi Germany and its Axis allies in World War II.

The invasion opened a third European front in the fight against the Axis powers, and within two months the Allied troops who came ashore in Normandy had liberated Paris.

But not all members of the World War II Allied family are on the same page. As the western nations meet to honor those who fought and died, the Russian government has been reminding the world that D-Day was but a small part of the fight against the Nazis.

While the western nations fought on the beaches, through the treacherous Normandy hedgerows and into the towns and cities of France, troops of the Soviet Union were battling across Eastern and Central Europe.

By the time Allied troops came ashore in June 1944 the Russians had already fought three years of devastating war on the Eastern Front, taking and inflicting appalling casualties. The enormous and pivotal battles of Stalingrad and Kursk had been fought and won, and the Axis retreat towards Germany was well underway.

Despite the sensitive nature of the D-Day commemorations, both Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova decided to remind the West that while the invasion was important, it paled in comparison to the Russian campaigns.

Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Zakharova lauded all those who died on the Western European front of the war and said Moscow would always be thankful for their service, Reuters reported.

However, she added the western contribution "should of course not be exaggerated. And especially not at the same time as diminishing the Soviet Union's titanic efforts, without which this victory simply would not have happened."

"As historians note, the Normandy landing did not have a decisive impact on the outcome of World War II and the Great Patriotic War," she added, using the Russian name for the conflict. "It had already been pre-determined as a result of the Red Army's victories."

More than 25 million Soviet soldiers and citizens died during the war, representing the vast majority of Allied casualties. Soviet leaders had been pressing their western allies to open another front against the Axis countries in western Europe since 1942 to take the pressure off their forces in the east.

"There was a wish to wait for the maximum weakening of Germany's military power from its enormous losses in the east, while reducing losses in the west," Zakharova suggested on Wednesday.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Lavrov suggested western nations were intentionally underplaying the contribution of the Soviet Union. "Our detractors seek to diminish the role of the Soviet Union in World War II and portray it if not as the main culprit of the war, then at least as an aggressor, along with Nazi Germany," he said.

The scale and brutality of the slaughter on the Eatsern Front was staggering. As the Germans advanced in 1941, they committed a vast range of war crimes, systematically massacring local populations and seizing land intended for future German settlement.

This brutalization of Eastern Europe and western Russia prompted a vicious response when Soviet troops reversed Nazi gains from 1943 onward. Troops engaged in widespread killing of civilians and prisoners, looting and mass rapes.

But Lavrov suggested that the western nations "cynically equate Nazi occupation, which claimed tens of millions of lives, and the crimes committed by collaborationists with the Red Army's liberating mission."

"The Nuremberg Tribunal, whose rulings became an integral part of international law, clearly identified who was on the side of good and who was on the side of evil," he continued. "In the first case, it was the Soviet Union, which sacrificed millions of lives of its sons and daughters to the altar of Victory, as well as other Allied nations. In the second case, it was the Third Reich, the Axis countries and their minions."

Lavrov claimed that western education systems were introducing "false interpretations of history" with "mystifications and pseudo-historical theories designed to belittle the feat of our ancestors."

"Young people are being told that the main credit in victory over Nazism and liberation of Europe goes not to the Soviet troops, but to the West due to the landing in Normandy, which took place less than a year before Nazism was defeated," he added.

"We hold sacred the contribution of all the Allies to the common Victory in that war, and we believe any attempts to drive a wedge between us are disgraceful. But no matter how hard the falsifiers of history try, the fire of truth cannot be put out. It was the peoples of the Soviet Union who broke the backbone of the Third Reich. That is a fact."

D-Day, anniversary, World War Two, cemetery, France
A visitor walks among graves at the Normandy American Cemetery on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 2019 near Colleville-Sur-Mer, France. Getty/Sean Gallup