Biden says US will fight hateful ideologies during D-Day 80th anniversary speech

US President hits out at Russian President Vladimir Putin's authoritarianism during commemoration event in Normandy's Pointe du Hoc

US President Joe Biden delivers a speech on Pointe du Hoc clifftop as part of the D-Day commemorations marking the 80th anniversary of the Second World War Allied landings in Normandy. AFP
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President Joe Biden on Friday said that America would defend democracy and oppose hateful ideologies as he paid tribute to WWII veterans during a D-Day commemoration event in France.

During a speech at a cliff face on Normandy's Pointe du Hoc, Mr Biden said that the US would continue its fight against dictators and authoritarianism abroad.

Mr Biden urged Americans to remember the US Army Rangers whose dramatic heroism on Omaha and Utah beach during D-Day helped secure an allied victory against German forces.

Opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine was a continuation of the same fight for freedom, he said during the 80th anniversary event, which was attended by politicians and D-Day veteran John Wardell.

"They’re not asking us to scale these cliffs. They’re asking us to stay true to what America stands for.

"Does anyone doubt that they would stand up against Putin's aggression here in Europe today?," he said in an apparent dig at his political rival Donald Trump.

"Does anyone doubt they wouldn’t move heaven and earth to vanquish hateful ideologies of today?"

Mr Biden earlier pledged his support for Ukraine and announced $225 million in aid to help the country rebuild its electricity grid, when he met its President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for talks in France.

“The United States will stand with you,” Mr Biden told Mr Zelenskyy in a bilateral meeting at a Paris hotel, after both had attended an earlier D-Day commemorations in northern France on Thursday.

Mr Biden also expressed regret for the delay in getting new aid through Congress. In April, Mr Biden signed into law a $61 billion package of military support for Ukraine, after it had been held up for months by some Republicans.

“We're still in,” he told Mr Zelenskyy.

The meeting was their first face-to-face encounter since Mr Zelenskyy visited Washington last December, when the leaders pressed Republicans to overcome opposition in their party to more support for Ukraine.

The D-Day celebrations – which excluded Russia – were an opportunity for Ukraine's allies to show their support for Kyiv.

In a live TV broadcast on Thursday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to provide Mirage 2000-5 warplanes to Ukraine. Pilots will be trained in France over several months to use the jets. Their primary aim is to intercept drones and missile attacks.

Mr Macron has rejected claims that this represents escalation against Russia, pointing instead at Ukrainian demands.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it demonstrated France's “readiness” to directly participate in the war in Ukraine.

In a half-hour speech in front of the French National Assembly on Friday, Mr Zelenskyy thanked France for supporting his country.

“France, I thank you for being alongside us to defend life,” Mr Zelenskyy said in French, before switching back to Ukrainian.

“Your combat aviation, brilliant fighter jets under Ukrainian pilots' command will prove that Europe is stronger, stronger than evil which dared to threaten it.”

The Ukrainian leader drew comparisons with D-Day, on June 6, 1944, when Allied troops landed in Normandy to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe.

“Now, just like 80 years ago, we can prove it – the power of our unity, the power of our alliance, the power of our shared ideals,” he said.

Mr Zelenskyy said Russian President Vladimir Putin represented a threat for the entire world.

“The Russian regime knows no limits. Europe is no longer enough for him,” he said.

Mr Putin “has destroyed Syria” and “causes trouble” in the Sahel,” said the Ukrainian leader.

“He is blackmailing the whole world so that the world is afraid of him. He will also find the way and the faith to destabilise you, to destabilise Europe,” said Mr Zelenskyy.

Mr Putin recently warned that he could provide long-range missiles to allied countries to hit western targets, after Ukraine's allies gave the go-ahead for Kyiv to use western-supplied weapons to hit Russian military targets on Russian soil.

The National Assembly, which gave Mr Zelenskyy several standing ovations, was half empty, in what local TV described as a consequence of the upcoming European election on Sunday, with lawmakers campaigning.

Mr Zelenskyy also made a stopover at the Defence Ministry where European defence company KNDS officially announced the creation of a branch in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian leader is scheduled to have dinner with Mr Macron in Paris after a joint press conference.

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Updated: June 07, 2024, 4:31 PM