Merkel attended the victory parade on Red Square to mark the 65th anniversary of VE Day. The German government described her invitation as a sign of “how important reconciliation is for the Russian hosts.”
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin caused some consternation last week by vetoing the invitations of US Vice-President Joe Biden and the British Prince Charles – after President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown made their excuses for not being able to attend.
Both French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi also pulled out of the event, making Merkel the only major leader representing the West. There was a certain irony to this, as this was the first time that NATO troops were invited to take part in the annual Red Square parade.
Merkel made clear that she would be travelling to Moscow throughout last week, despite having a number pressing concerns – most notably decisions being made in the eurozone on how best to stabilise the struggling euro.
But the chancellor did not attend the lunch that followed the ceremony, and was expected back in Berlin by midday. The German delegation in Moscow said she was closely involved in preparations for the special meeting of European Union finance ministers.
Merkel also met acting Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski early in the morning in Moscow, and followed the parade along with Medvedev, Putin and Chinese president Hu Jintao. She also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Red Square parade takes place on May 9 every year. Gerhard Schröder became the first German chancellor to be invited five years ago.