Today Russia marked the 67th Victory Day since the surrender of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Estimates of 28+ million Soviet people died in that war, which came to be known in Eastern Europe as the Great Patriotic War.
Commemorative events and celebrations were held in all regions of the country with the earliest in the Far East from cities like Kamchatka where ships of the Pacific Fleet triumphantly paraded the flag of the Navy to the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky where a memorial gathering was held and officials laid flowers at monuments to those who died in the war.
In Vladivostok there was a military parade through town as well as a parade of ships into the harbour.
But nowhere is the event celebrated like the capital and with the threat of rain in the forecast, ten Air Force planes were launched to disperse the clouds over Moscow at six o’clock in the morning. Even though celebrations were also large in cities like Saint Petersburg, Kyiv and Minsk, Moscow’s Victory Parade featured more than 14,000 troops and 100 military vehicles.
All told, more than 230 commemorative events in the Russian capital will have included close to 8 million people from war veterans’ meetings with young people, retro dance master classes and wartime songs, large-scale media shows, family Victory reunions and pop music concerts. The night culminated in a gunfire salute and fireworks.
The parade was reviewed by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and addressed by President Vladimir Putin.
President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev sat together and greeted veterans during the celebration. Mr. Medvedev was named Prime Minister yesterday after a majority vote in the Duma (lower house of parliament).
At Noon, thousands of Russian soldiers marched across Red Square under the gaze of newly-inaugurated President Vladimir Putin to mark 67 years since the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
The first to march was the company of drummers of the Russian Defense Ministry. Then came groups of standard-bearers with the State Flag of the Russian Federation, the Banner of Victory and the Banner of the Armed Forces, as well as replicas of the standards of the Great Patriotic War fronts.
The first Victory Parade was held on Red Square on June 24, 1945 on the order of then-Supreme Commander-in-Chief Joseph Stalin and included German prisoners of war who were ordered to march.
Next were the marching units of the Russian Armed Forces, security agencies, and modern-day military hardware, such as armoured personnel carriers, tanks, self-propelled artillery guns and missile systems, 100 units all told.
Yesterday, 08 May, President Putin observed the annual tradition of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier and placing flowers at each “Hero City” memorial in honour of veterans who died in the war. Both memorials are located just outside the Kremlin walls in the Alexander Gardens area.
Five helicopters passed over Red Square bearing the flags of the Russian Federation, the Defense Ministry, the Ground Forces, the Air Force and the Russian Navy.
Guests included representatives of public organizations, and foreign diplomats, representatives of the Anti-Nazi alliance of countries and leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States member countries.
In his first major speech since returning to the presidency, Mr. Putin told the crowd, “Congratulations on Victory Day!
Congratulations on this day of our people’s triumph and glory!
This is our day of memory, our day of pride and mourning, the day that unites everyone in Russia.
Sixty-seven years ago, we defeated the terrible and cynical force that was Nazism. We must never forget how that force was born and grew stronger and ever more audacious before the world’s very eyes. We must never forget how barbarians planned the destruction of entire peoples and sought to dictate the destinies of whole countries and continents.
We must be open in recognizing that the Nazis’ aggressive plans did not meet with timely collective resistance and that the divisions between countries and their mutual suspicion and ideological disputes prevented them from being able to stop World War II.
Humanity paid a terrible cost for this, but in the end, the inevitable happened and responsibility and the collective determination to vanquish this evil finally triumphed. Countries rose in common coalition against the Nazi enemy. Today, we pay tribute to the countries that made an enormous contribution to defeating our common ruthless enemy.
It is our common duty to remember why the war began and to analyse its lessons, which remain just as relevant today. I stress today that strict respect for international law, state sovereignty and the independent choice of each people is one of the crucial guarantees for ensuring that the tragedy of World War II never happens again.
Russia is consistent in its policy of strengthening security in the world. We have a great moral right in taking this principled and firm stand, because it was our country that bore the brunt of the Nazi attack, met it with heroic resistance, traversed immense hardships, determined the war’s outcome, routed the enemy and liberated the world’s peoples. This victory provides a strong foundation for our young generations too, who must know and remember that they are the successors of victors, of true soldiers of freedom.
Veterans, you stood shoulder to shoulder throughout this war, united as brothers, enduring hardships, deprivation and torment such as seem more than man can bear. But you did not give in to the enemy and became those who truly made victory with your own hands. You took strength in Russia’s glorious military traditions and in the true values that shone so brightly during those times of great trial, and you prove once more that victory is won not only through strength of arms, but through strength of will, unity and faith.
The Great Patriotic War is part of history now, but your courage and your ability to love and defend your motherland will never fade and will always remain the yardstick of moral sense, patriotism and duty for the generations to come. Today too, your descendants follow the Victory Banner and parade with pride across legendary Red Square, and they do so in a sign of deepest respect to those who gave them this great day, those who remained forever on the battlefields and will never celebrate this most sacred of holidays together with us here.
We will always remain true to your great deed. This is the guarantee of our future, and we will do everything to ensure that it is a safe and peaceful future.
Glory to the victorious people! Congratulations! Congratulations on Victory Day! Glory to Russia! Hurrah!”
Students from Russian military academies took part and music for the parade was performed by the Combined Military Orchestra.
A reception marking the 67th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War took place at the Kremlin Grand Palace after the parade.
Later in the evening President Putin received a telephone call from US President Obama. The two congratulated each other on the anniversary of the Victory over Nazism, noting the historical significance of the allied relations binding their nations during World War II, and expressed their warmest wishes to veterans.