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Harper in Europe for G7

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken off for Europe on a week-long trip that includes a celebration of the end of the Cold War and ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion.

He flies first to Warsaw, where he will join U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders on Wednesday to mark what the Prime Minister's Office calls the 25th anniversary of Poland's emergence from communism.

On June 4, 1989, Poland's anti-communist Solidarity movement officially won power in democratic elections.

Harper then travels to Brussels to attend a G7 summit, which was arranged hastily to replace a G8 meeting scheduled for Sochi, Russia, scrubbed in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine.

He ends his trip in Normandy, where he'll attend D-Day ceremonies, an event which is expected to include Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Harper hasn't expressed any desire to speak to the Russian leader, although it's likely he will speak to others about Putin.

The prime minister labelled Putin a threat to world peace after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. Harper blames the Russian leader for instigating continuing unrest in eastern Ukraine.

Just last Friday, Harper denounced him in a strongly worded speech in Toronto. He tied Putin to the worst evils of 20th century communism, which he called a ruthless and "poisonous ideology."

Harper's Warsaw visit will contrast a vibrant Poland that has become an Eastern European success story with an economically hobbled Ukraine struggling to escape the influence of Putin's Russia.

Harper will meet Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to discuss the world's response to the crisis in Ukraine.

Harper has said once he's in Brussels, he'll lobby his fellow leaders to come up with more money for his signature initiative on maternal and child health.

He'll also talk jobs and the global economy, but Ukraine and Russia will also be on his radar.

He has urged solidarity as the best response to Russia's recent aggressive moves.

The Canadian Press

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