Russia put on large-scale military parades across the country on May 9 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its victory in World War II, known as “The Great Patriotic War” in Russia.
Thousands of Russian troops marched and the country’s latest military hardware was displayed at the Red Square in downtown Moscow. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, it is the largest parade since the fall of the former Soviet Union in 1991.
Nearly 28 million Russians were killed during World War II, the most destructive war in human history. The Russian defense ministry says as many as 4 million soldiers remain unaccounted for.
Western leaders snubbed the parade but about 30 foreign leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, attended the ceremony in Moscow. Leaders of India, former Soviet republics and Cuba accompanied Russian President Vladimir Putin. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also joined the leaders.
German, French and British leaders, as well as US President Barack Obama skipped the ceremony, underlining the tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis.
A column of Chinese troops, as well as soldiers from India, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia and Serbia took part in the events.
Russia's newest hardware, the Armata T-14 and Armata T-15 battle tanks, were on display. Some soldiers wore World War Two uniforms, while war veterans and large crowds of people watched the parade.
"My own grandfather died defending Russia, this is our day to remember them," 43-year-old former marine Alexander Smolkin told Reuters.
In addition to the parade in Moscow, parades were also held in 150 Russian cities and towns.
Putin warned that fascism could be on the rise again and suggested other countries are rewriting history to play down Moscow's role in winning the war during his speech to the soldiers.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko signed into law a new holiday on May 8, when most of Europe mark the end of war, for the first time in 70 years.