Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t expected to take part in next year’s 75th anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Finnmark from Nazi German forces in 1944. His foreign minister Sergej Lavrov, however, is likely to attend, just like he did on the 70th anniversary in 2014.
Northern Norway remains grateful to the Soviet Army for marching over the border east of Kirkenes in the fall of 1944, forcing the Nazi German occupiers westward, and then pulling out again. Despite all the destruction and hardship that followed, Finnmark residents were finally liberated, if only to later face homelessness following the retreating Germans’ scorched earth tactic. They burned nearly every building in their wake including their own installations, so no one else would benefit from them.
The Soviet liberation has never been forgotten, and local officials in Finnmark had been wanting the Norwegian government to invite Putin himself to next year’s ceremonies. Despite current tensions between Russia and western countries like Norway, the local mayor in Kirkenes has been among those hoping Putin could come.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported last week, however, that Norway’s foreign ministry expects Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov will be both invited and in attendance, as he was in 2014. A ministry spokesman noted that Russia has been represented at liberation ceremonies by its foreign minister in the past, “and no other desire has been expressed” by the Russians. “We plan to follow that practice for the anniversary in 2019 also,” wrote spokesman Frode Overland Andersen in an email to Aftenposten. He said the Norwegian government will also be represented “at a high level” during the ceremonies next autumn.