Russia commemorates end of World War II
Russia on May 9 commemorated the 74th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II with a military parade on Moscow’s Red Square.
President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and Kazakhstan’s former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, attended the parade.
Putin opened the parade by claiming in a speech that “the main liberator of Europe” from Nazi Germany was the Soviet Union and calling the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, “an ancient Russian capital.”
“The victory was earned by the bravery of those who participated in defending ancient Russian capitals – Kyiv and the Great Novgorod, by the courage of the defenders of Smolensk, Odesa [a Ukrainian Black Sea port city], Sevastopol [a city in Ukraine’s Crimea annexed by Moscow in 2014], and the unlimited stamina of the residents of the blockaded Leningrad,” Putin said.
Putin on May 9 also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin.
Annual Victory Day military parades in Moscow have been seen by the Kremlin’s critics as a show of strength by Putin.
Kremlin critics say Putin’s government uses the celebrations to stoke patriotism but pays little attention to the need of aging World War II veterans.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said earlier that 13,000 troops and 130 pieces of military hardware took part in the parade, which was broadcast nationally on state-run TV.
According to the ministry, representatives from all of Russia’s armed forces and the National Guard participated.
However, the Kremlin’s flight control center said combat aircraft did not take part in the parade because weather conditions were unfavorable.
Nazarbayev’s presence alongside Putin came as a surprise. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said earlier that no foreign leader would attend the event.
Although Nazarbayev resigned as Kazakhstan’s president on March 19, he retains the title “Leader of the Nation.”
Putin and other Russian officials wore Russia’s Ribbon of St. George – a military symbol that, in recent years, has come to be seen in some former Soviet republics as representing Russian nationalism and dominance.
Since 2017, the Ribbon of St. George has been officially banned in Ukraine as a symbol of “Russian aggression.”
Rather than the Ribbon of St. George, Nazarbayev wore a blue ribbon representing Kazakhstan’s national flag.
Russia’s Land Forces Commander-in-Chief Army General Oleg Salyukov opened the parade and reported to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who then led the event.
Victory Day celebrations were also being held in several other former Soviet republics.
But feelings of unity with Moscow inspired by the memory of the war are fading – and many of Russia’s neighbors are wary of its intentions following its hostile actions against Ukraine.
The way the end of the war is commemorated in other former Soviet republics now differs from country to country.
An estimated 27 million Soviet soldiers and citizens were killed in World War II.
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