By Ray Fleming While commemorative events were held all over Europe on Sunday, neither the Queen nor the Prime Minister was present at the 60th anniversary Victory in Europe ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. The 25-minute service was attended by the Prince of Wales and John Reid the new Minister of Defence. Yesterday in Moscow, at the invitation of President Putin, presidents and prime ministers from more than fifty countries assembled in Red Square to mark the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Germany. President Bush was there, as were President Chirac, Chancellor Schroder and Prime Ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Junichiro Koizumi. Britain's representative was John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister. According to press reports Mr Blair told President Putin last Friday that he would be unable to attend because of work pressures immediately following the election. Neither Mr Blair's absence from Sunday's Cenotaph ceremony (200 metres from 10 Downing Street) nor from Red Square yesterday was acceptable. He may argue that the official commemoration in Britain will take place in July, when there will be a combined Victory in Europe and Victory in Japan Day, but he cannot explain why he could not spare 24 hours, even immediately after an election, to honour the Russian armed forces without whose valour Britain and the United States might never have won the Second World War. In accepting his invitation President Bush obviously understood the symbolic importance of being in Moscow yesterday. It is unfortunate, however, that he has spoilt what otherwise would have been seen as a fine gesture by indulging in anti-Russian rhetoric everywhere he stopped over on his way to Moscow. It was rank bad manners and counter-productive diplomacy. President Putin was entitled to respond in kind by appearing on US TV on Sunday night and reminding viewers that Mr Bush's election in 2000 was not exactly a model of democracy in action.