10 May 2015

Russia stages massive WWII parade

9:56 am on 10 May 2015

Russia has staged its biggest military parade, marking 70 years since victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Russian T-34 Soviet-made tanks drive through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow.

A Russian T-34 Soviet-made tank drives through Red Square on Victory Day in Moscow. Photo: AFP

Thousands of troops marched across Red Square in Moscow, and new armour was displayed for the first time.

Many foreign dignitaries were present but most Western leaders stayed away because of Russia's role in Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin said global co-operation had been put at risk in recent years. His Ukrainian counterpart accused him of justifying aggression.

Russia denies claims by the West that it is arming rebels in eastern Ukraine. More than 6000 people have been killed since fighting began in April 2014 in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Show of strength

In his opening speech, President Putin paid tribute to the sacrifices of Soviet troops during World War Two. He also thanked "the people of Great Britain, France and the United States for their contribution to victory".

But he added: "In recent decades the basic principles of international co-operation have been ignored ever more frequently. We see how a military-bloc mentality is gaining momentum."

The remarks echo previous complaints by Mr Putin about what he says are efforts by the US and its Nato allies to encircle Russia militarily.

A photo taken with a tilt-shift lens shows soldiers marching through Red Square.

A photo taken with a tilt-shift lens shows vast numbers of soldiers marching through Red Square. Photo: AFP

Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers fly over Red Square.

More than 100 aircraft - including these Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers - flew over Red Square. Photo: AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) during the Victory Day parade in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: AFP

Meanwhile, at a wreath-laying ceremony in Kiev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko condemned Russia's portrayal of his government as fascist over the past year.

"Obviously this is done with one aim alone - to justify... the Russian aggression against Ukraine."

The victory parade in Moscow started at 10am local time on Saturday. Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Pranab Mukherjee of India and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were among more than 20 world leaders watching the event.

Military units from across Russia - some dressed in WW2-era uniforms - marched, and more than 100 aircraft flew over Red Square.

Also on show was the new, hi-tech Armata battle tank, which has a remote-controlled gun turret and reinforced capsule for the crew, as well as the RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles - each capable of delivering three nuclear warheads.

In a sign of closer ties between Russia and China, a column of Chinese troops marched in Moscow for the first time.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lays flowers at a memorial in Kiev on Saturday 9 May 2015.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko used Victory Day to speak out against Russia. Photo: AFP

Military parades on a smaller scale were also held in other cities, including Sevastopol in Crimea - Ukraine's southern peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014 - as well as the Ukrainian rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The US, Australia, Canada and most EU leaders avoided the celebrations in Russia - despite invitations - because of Moscow's alleged involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

On Friday, Poland organised an alternative event for those leaders who refused to go to Moscow.

Events in Gdansk were attended by the presidents of several countries, including Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania and Ukraine. Mr Ban, the UN chief, was also there.

Russia in WWII 1941-1945

- BBC

Fireworks explode above Moscow's Red Square on Victory Day.

Fireworks explode above Moscow's Red Square on Victory Day. Photo: AFP

Pro-Kremlin bikers from the Night Wolves bikers' club take part in a concert in Red Square as part of Victory Day.

Bikers from the pro-Kremlin Night Wolves take part in a concert in Red Square as part of Victory Day. Photo: AFP

Tanks of pro-Russian separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic take part in a parallel Victory Day parade in Donetsk , Ukraine, on 9 May 2015.

Tanks of pro-Russian separatists take part in a parallel Victory Day parade in Donetsk, Ukraine, on 9 May 2015. Photo: AFP

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs