Russian President Putin's chief of staff to attend Auschwitz anniversary - organisers

A general view of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim on Monday. Ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp will take place on Jan 27, with some 300 former Auschwitz prisoners t
A general view of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim on Monday. Ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp will take place on Jan 27, with some 300 former Auschwitz prisoners taking part in the commemoration event. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KRAKOW, Poland (REUTERS) - The head of President Vladimir Putin's administration will represent Russia at events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Soviet liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, a spokesman for the organisers said on Tuesday.

Heads of state will gather at the site of the Nazi camp near Krakow in southern Poland on Jan 27 to remember the estimated 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, who perished there during World War II.

But distrust between the West and Russia generated by the conflict in Ukraine has cast a pall over the plans and Reuters reported earlier this month that Mr Putin was unlikely to take part in the commemoration.

"The Russian side have confirmed that the delegation participating in the anniversary events will be led by Sergei Ivanov," Mr Bartosz Bartyzel, a spokesman for the museum organising the commemoration, told Reuters.

Poland, which has sharply criticised Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis, did not send a full diplomatic invitation to Putin, wary of the domestic political consequences of inviting the Russian leader, sources have said.

Formal invitations to foreign delegations were sent not by the Polish government but by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and International Auschwitz Council, the joint organisers.

The presidents of Germany, France, Poland and Ukraine are among the statesmen expected to attend the commemoration.