Merkel declines Putin's invitation to military parade marking 70th anniversary of Nazi defeat

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declined an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend a military parade in Moscow marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis, officials said Wednesday, citing tensions over Russia's actions in Ukraine.

Merkel's spokesman said the German leader instead proposed taking part in a memorial and wreath-laying ceremony in Moscow on May 10, which Putin accepted.

"The chancellor wants to commemorate the end of World War II and the liberation from National Socialism appropriately and with dignity," Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin. "In view of the Russian actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine participating in the military parade didn't seem appropriate."

Merkel has been at the forefront of Western efforts to achieve a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, where government forces are battling separatists backed by Russia. Much of the diplomatic negotiating has involved Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia under the "Normandy format" established after last year's commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Meanwhile, Seibert said Merkel would receive Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Berlin on Monday.

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