Russia on Saturday showcased its new war machines in Moscow at a grand parade, marking the 70th anniversary of the country’s victory over Nazi Germany, witnessed by many world leaders including President Pranab Mukherjee, an event boycotted by the Western powers due to standoff over Ukraine.
Nearly 10,000 soldiers, including an Indian Army contingent and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), took part in the parade on the iconic Red Square which lasted for over 90 minutes.
The parade on Red Square showcased cutting edge weapons such as the next-generation Armata T-14 tank and advanced military aircraft.
Russian President Vladimir Putin witnessed the parade along with Mukherjee, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and UN Secretary General Ben Ki-moon and several other heads of state.
Taking an apparent swipe at the US, Putin, in his speech to the assembled troops, veterans and guests, said, “in the past decades we have seen attempts to create a unipolar world.”
The term “unipolar” is often used by Russia to criticise the United States’ purported aim to dominate world affairs.
“We can see how the force bloc-based thinking has been gaining power. That all is undermining the stable international development,” Putin said.
“Our common task should be offering equal-security system for all countries, which is adequate to modern threats, and which is based on regional, global, bloc-free basis,” he said.
Putin, however, thanked Britain, France and the US for their contribution in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II, which claimed an estimated 27 million Russian soldiers and civilians.
“We are grateful to the people of Great Britain, France and the United States for their contribution to victory,” he said while underlining the importance of global cooperation.
At the parade, 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 all, about 200 pieces of military hardware took part in the parade, which concluded with a fly-past by military aircraft. One group of warplanes flew in a tight formation depicting the number “70.”
Western powers like the US, Russia’s World War-II allies Britain and France boycotted the event over the standoff on Ukraine. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to visit Moscow tomorrow to pay homage to those who sacrificed lives in the war and to recognise Red Army’s sacrifices.
May 9, which is celebrated as the ‘Victory Day’, unites Russians from all walks of life irrespective of political sympathies and draws huge crowds, including war veterans, their widows and family members gathered at the Red Square to witness the event.
Other Presidents who attended the event included Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, Raul Castro of Cuba, Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Jacob Zuma of South Africa.
After the parade, all the heads of the state attending the event, including Putin and Mukherjee, walked down from the Red Square to the Kremlin, waving to the massive gathering.
The 70th anniversary celebrations stand in contrast to the festivities a decade ago, when Putin hosted the leaders of the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
The grand parade was held even as the Ukraine crisis continues, with the West slapping sanctions on Moscow over Russia’s seizure of Crimea and alleged support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
United States President Barack Obama has snubbed the celebrations, as have the leaders of Britain and France.
Smaller parades in 25 other cities also took place during the day involving 25,000 soldiers.