World leaders arrive in France for D-Day celebrations

Around 400 separate events will be held as American, Russian and British heads of state are among those marking 70th anniversary of landings.

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Seventy years after the first Allied planes set off for the World War II invasion of Normandy, world leaders descended on France Thursday to remember the dead and commemorate D-Day in two days of memorial celebrations, reports FRANCE 24.

Up to 20 world leaders are due to attend the main D-Day commemoration on Friday, but the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Barack Obama and Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko, threatens to steal the spotlight.

Of the more than 156,000 troops who waded or parachuted onto French soil on June 6, 1944, nearly 4,500 would be dead by the end of the day.

More than 400 memorial events were planned for the commemorations, although bad weather forced some to be cancelled on Wednesday, including a planned parachute drop from vintage planes.

A series of events on Thursday will honour the survivors upon their return to France, the youngest of whom are now reaching 90 years of age.

A flotilla of ships set off from Britain's main naval port of Portsmouth in commemoration of the nearly 7,000 vessels that took part in the invasion, the biggest amphibious assault in human history.

US, French and Dutch soldiers will also take part at an evening ceremony at Utah Beach, which lies on the western edge of the invasion site.

Britain's Prince Charles led tributes to those who took part in the first wave of the invasion, when thousands of Allied troops flew or parachuted in during the early hours of June 6, 1944, to catch the German army by surprise. The Prince of Wales met veterans at Pegasus Bridge, the crossing at Benouville that was secured by British parachutists in the opening stages of the invasion.

Read more of this report from FRANCE 24.

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