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At D-Day ceremony, American veteran hugs Ukraine's Zelenskyy and calls him a savior

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OMAHA BEACH, France (AP) — An American veteran and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shared an emotional moment at a ceremony to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion to liberate France in World War II, each praising the other as a hero.

Retired Staff Sgt. Melvin Hurwitz, 99, and other veterans were introduced to the foreign dignitaries remembering the landings in Normandy on Thursday. When he met Zelenskyy, Hurwitz kissed the Ukrainian leader's hand and pulled him in for an extended hug, exclaiming: “Oh, you're the savior of the people!"

A beaming Zelenskyy replied: "No, no, no, you ... you saved Europe.” The crowd watching exploded with applause, and Hurwitz asked for a picture with the Ukrainian president. He told Zelenskyy that he prays for him.

The conflict in Ukraine hung over the anniversary, a grim reminder that war has returned to Europe. Ukraine’s president was greeted with a standing ovation and cheers. Russia, a crucial World War II ally who launched a full-scale invasion of its smaller neighbor in 2022, was not invited.

The commemorations for the more than 4,400 Allied dead on D-Day and many tens of thousands more, including French civilians, killed in the ensuing Battle of Normandy were tinged with fear that World War II lessons are fading.