Moscow: Celebrations were held in Russia and many other countries on Sunday to mark the 76th anniversary of victory in World War II.
Many European countries mark Victory Day on May 8, but in Russia and some other countries, it is traditionally celebrated on the ninth. The end of war agreement came into effect one minute after midnight, Moscow time, on May 9, 1945.
Military parades are traditionally held in cities throughout Russia on that day, with the biggest one in Moscow. The Red Square parade is personally reviewed by the president.
President Vladimir Putin attended the Moscow parade with his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon. Putin shook hands with veterans before taking his seat. The president then opened up the parade by congratulating the veterans, the soldiers and all Russians.
“We will always remember that this heroic feat was accomplished by the Soviet people. In the hardest moments of the war, in decisive battles that determined the result of the war against Fascism, our people were on their own, alone on this laborious, heroic and sacrifice-filled road to the Victory,” Putin said.
The president then warned listeners of the dangers of Nazism and neo-Nazism, adding that there were attempts to rewrite history and justify the crimes of the past.
After a minute of silence honoring the memory of the fallen, the parade kicked off. It showcased both the legendary time-tested T-34 tanks and the latest T-14 Armata ones; armored vehicles; missile systems; and even combat robots.
It was unclear until the very last moment whether there would be an air show, as sky was still overcast in the morning after the day-long pouring rain on Saturday. However, the aircraft were allowed to take off, in the end. The planes brightened up the gray sky over Moscow with a white-blue-red flag written in smoke.
Putin laid flowers down at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then paused a little to talk to veterans, some of whom wanted a picture with the president as well as a chat.
NOT JUST MOSCOW
The Russian capital may be home to the biggest parade, but it is definitely not the only one. And it is not the first one — the festivities began in Russia’s Far East, in Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, which are hours ahead of the capital.
There were parades outside Russia as well — Russian troops at Hmeimim Air Base in Syria marched on that day. The Syrian defense minister conveyed the president’s well wishes to the troops stationed at the base.
A parade was held in Tiraspol, the largest city in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria. It began with flowers laid down at the tombs of Soviet soldiers.
In the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, people unfolded a 300-meter (985 feet) long Saint George ribbon — a black-and-orange military symbol, traditionally associated with World War II celebrations in Russia and neighboring countries.
In Belgium, local politicians, activists and Russian diplomats laid flowers down at memorials for Soviet soldiers and resistance fighters. Andre Flahaut, former Belgian defense minister, spoke at one of these events. He stressed the importance of remembering the past as “far-right and nationalist ideas are spreading in some part of Belgium and Europe.” Those ideas are “the biggest threat to our democracy,” the politician said.
In France, a memorial plaque for a Soviet partisan commander, Alexander Tkachenko, was unveiled at a military necropolis not far from Lille. Tkachenko, an active member of the partisan fight in Pas-de-Calais department, was initially buried as an unknown soldier.
In Estonia’s Tallinn, activists organized a car rally. The route was supposed to have the military cemetery and the Bronze Soldier monument located there as the focal point. However, the police cordoned off part of the road, so some of the participants had to look for roundabout ways to the monument.
Many cities and towns across the world hosted Immortal Regiment marches. A more recent tradition than military parades, these marches are an opportunity for people to honor their relatives who fought in the war, worked to support the war effort, were taken prisoner during war or experienced it as children. The marches reflect the many ways in which the war shaped the lives of people.
In Berlin, flowers were laid down at the war monuments on May 9 and the day before. Several hundred people gathered in Tiergarten park for the Immortal Regiment event. A minute of silence was observed. The police units were on duty next to the war memorial there. Several police officers asked the participants to put on masks and stand further away from others, but, generally, the event went on peacefully.
First fireworks have already marked the end of the Victory Day in the Russian Far East, and the other cities will follow suit in hours to come. In Moscow and its suburbs, tanks and other military equipment could be seen rolling away from the city center — until the next time.