VLADIMIR Putin vowed today to defend Russia against threats from the West at a celebration to mark the end of Second World War.
Under grey skies, the Kremlin leader hailed the achievements of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazism at the vast Red Square military parade commemorating the 76th anniversary since the end of the war.
Historical T-34 tanks move through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade[/caption]
Female youth army soldiers, ‘YunArmia’ mark the end of World War Two[/caption]
Vladimir Putin meets with veterans after the Victory Day military parade in Moscow[/caption]
The solemn show of military strength is the biggest day in the Russian calendar.
Similar events were held in cities throughout the country, both remembering the past, and highlighting the Kremlin’s continued military strength.
Speaking amid unprecedented tensions with the West since the end of the Cold War, Putin told the last living veterans that they had achieved a victory of “historic importance” in “crushing Nazism”.
But the strongman stressed that in future “we will forever protect our national interests, protect our nation, and our courageous armed forces, successors to those winners.”
He vowed at the Victory Day event to do “everything to protect and ensure the prosperity of lives, of our families.
“The veterans serve as a great role model for us, for our deeds, and for our thoughts – and our future feats.”
Earlier, defence minister Sergei Shoigu, who had overseen the recent build up of forces on Ukraine’s borders, inspected the massed ranks of the Russian armed forces on Red Square.
Putin had ordered rain clouds to be spiked ahead of today’s vast commemoration – to stop a downpour ruining his parade.
A fleet of Antonov-26 aircraft were deployed to ‘spike’ clouds with a chemical cocktail of weather-changing silver iodide, liquid nitrogen and dry ice, a Soviet technology developed in the Cold War which often drenches villages in Moscow region.
A T-34 tank rolls down Palace Square during the Victory Day military parade[/caption]
Sukhoi Su-25BM jet aircraft leave a trail in the Russian national colours as they fly over Moscow[/caption]
President Vladimir Putin leaves Red Square after the Victory Day[/caption]
Putin has been criticised for turning the annual event – started by Stalin in 1945 – into propaganda for a future conflict rather than a commemoration of allied victory over the Nazis three quarters of a century ago.
But for 69 per cent of Russians, the May 9 Victory Day events are the most important holiday in the annual calendar, remembering the appalling human toll suffered by its people, a new poll found.
This year’s Victory Day parade came amid acute strains with the West especially over a vast Russian military build-up close to Ukraine’s borders last month, and Moscow’s treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny allegedly poisoned with novichok before being jailed
In the huge parade, there were 12,018 troops and 191 pieces of military hardware, including intercontinental ballistic missile launchers.
There was a fly-past by 76 military aircraft.
This included the wartime T-34 tanks but also cutting edge weaponry symbolising Russia’s rising military strength.
These include Typhoon-PVO vehicles, the BMP-3 and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles equipped with the Berezhok combat module, and the advanced Kurganets-25 infantry fighting vehicles.
Russian Buk-M3 missile systems drive along Red Square during the military parade[/caption]
Parading in front of Putin were Russia’s newest T-14 Armata tanks.
T-80BVM tanks head towards Moscow’s Red Square ahead[/caption]
A T-34 tank moves through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow[/caption]
Other formidable weaponry included nuclear capable Iskander-M tactical missile system, the Tornado-S multiple rocket launcher, the Msta-S and Koalitsia-SV self-propelled howitzers.
On display were the S-400 missile systems, the BMD-4M and BTR-MDM Rakushka airborne infantry fighting vehicles, and TOS-1A heavy flamethrower vehicles.
Showcased too were the Buk-M3 and Tor-M2 medium- and short-range anti-aircraft missile systems and the Pantsyr-S anti-aircraft missile launcher.
Rattling over the cobbles of Red Square were the Yars ICBM launchers, BTR-82A APCs and advanced wheeled armoured personnel carriers based on the Boomerang platform.
The aerial display included Tupolev Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers, Sukhoi Su-35S fighters, talong with Su-34 and Su-24M bombers.
The aerial parade was concluded by the Mikoyan MiG-31K and Sukhoi Su-57 aircraft and plane groups from the tactical wing of the Lipetsk Air Base and the Kubinka Diamond consisting of the Russian Knights pilot groups flying Sukhoi Su-30SM planes.
Mil Mi-26 and Mi-8 helicopters, the Mil Mi-35, Kamov Ka-52 and Mil Mi-28N combat helicopters.
Among those taking part were members of the Yunarmia – nicknamed the Putin Youth – which now has more than 800,000 members, and is seen by critics as a symbol of Russia’s militarisation.
Last year there had been plans for Boris Johnson to attend the Red Square parade, and there were even negotiations over a senior royal accompanying him, for the 75th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Europe.
Historic T-34 tanks move through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow[/caption]
Russian TOS-1A multiple rocket launchers move through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade[/caption]
Servicemen are seen on a T-80BVM tank ahead of a military parade marking the 76th anniversary[/caption]
In the event the Covid-19 crisis prevented many foreign dignitaries attending.
This year- amid high tension with the West – for the 76th commemoration Britain was not even represented at ambassadorial level.
The relationship between the US and Russia has soured dramatically in the last 12 months, with the US accusing Russia of election meddling, carrying out the SolarWinds cyber hack, and putting bounties on the heads of US soldiers in the Middle East.
Further straining relations is Russia’s large military build-up on its border with Ukraine and the ailing health of imprisoned Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny.
Speaking on Russian state television in April, Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov confirmed Putin and Biden were talking about meeting in June.
It comes after Biden proposed to Putin earlier this month that they hold a summit in a neutral country to help “normalise” relations between Moscow and Washington.
Acting British Deputy Ambassador Julia Crouch attended Victory Day for the British embassy, mirroring the US who sent Bart Gorman, the deputy chief of mission.
The three Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all ex-Soviet countries now in the EU and NATO – boycotted the military parade.
Many other EU states were represented by their ambassadors.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said that dignitaries had not been invited this year as it was not as big an occasion as the 75th anniversary.
But an EU source indicated that this was spin designed to minimise a potential “snub”.
“Presence at the level of an ambassador is always the lowest official representation possible, so this is also a sign,” said the source.
“This is a snub for the Russians.
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“Although they will try to present it as EU member states attending.”
Tajik President Emomali Rahmonappeared to be the sole foreign leader attending.
Similar parades were held in major cities around Russia.