President Vladimir Putin reviewed Russia’s traditional World War II victory parade
on Sunday, a patriotic display of raw military power that this year coincides with
soaring tensions with the West.
The parade on Moscow‘s Red Square commemorating the 76th anniversary of the
Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II featured over 12,000 troops
and more than 190 pieces of military hardware, including intercontinental ballistic
missile launchers and a fly-past by nearly 80 military aircraft under cloudy skies.
Putin, who has been in power as either president or prime minister since 1999,
stood beside Soviet war veterans on a review platform set up on Red Square.
This year’s parade precedes parliamentary elections in September and comes
at a time when Moscow’s relations with the West are acutely strained over issues
from the conflict in Ukraine to the fate of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
The United States and Russia have expelled each other’s diplomats in recent
months in a series of retaliatory moves and Moscow and European Union member
states have been involved in a similar tit-for-tat diplomatic dispute.
“Russia will, again and again, uphold international law, but at the same time we will
firmly protect national interests (and) ensure the security of our people,” Putin said.
Sunday’s parade follows a massive show of Russian military force near the borders
of Ukraine and in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Kyiv in 2014, and an uptick
in fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian
Moscow said the build-up, which alarmed the West, was a training exercise in
response to activity by the NATO military alliance and Ukraine. It has since
ordered a withdrawal of some troops.
Smaller military parades took place on Sunday in cities across Russia and in annexed
A parade was also planned at Russia’s Hmeymim airbase in Syria.