Russian, French presidents attend Yerevan commemoration
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (5th R, 1st row), Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic (6th R, 1st row), France's President Francois Hollande (3rd R, 1st row) and other visitors attend a commemoration ceremony marking the centenary of the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in Yerevan, Armenia, April 24, 2015. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/KremlinRussian President Vladimir Putin and French President François Hollande, who have both named the killing of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during World War I “genocide,” attended ceremonies at the Tsitsernakaberd memorial complex in Yerevan April 24 commemorating the tragedy in 1915.
“There is no and cannot be any justification for mass murder of people,” Putin said at the ceremony. “Today we mourn together with the Armenian people.”
“Important words have already been said in Turkey, but others are still expected so that shared grief can become shared destiny,” Hollande said.
Each leader walked along the memorial with a single yellow rose and put it into the center of a wreath resembling a forget-me-not, a flower that was made the symbol of the commemoration.
Speaking at the ceremony, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan expressed hope that recent steps to recognize the massacre as genocide will help “dispel the darkness of 100 years of denial.”
Sargsyan also welcomed Armenians from Turkey who were preparing to gather in Istanbul’s Taksim Square to honor the dead, calling them “strong people who are doing an important thing for their motherland.”
Turkey denies that the killings, at a time when Turkish troops were fighting Russian forces during World War I, constituted genocide. It has said there was no organized campaign to wipe out Armenians and no evidence of any such orders from Ottoman authorities.