The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II was marked across Europe on Friday and Saturday in a number of events attended by leaders and war veterans.
Referred to as “Victory Day,” the anniversary commemorates the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, ending six years of war in Europe which killed an estimated 50 million people.
In the UK, the leaders of the country’s top political parties put aside their differences just one day after the general elections to stand side by side at the commemoration of those killed during the war.
Having earlier in day announced their resignation from the leadership of their respected opposition parties, Liberal Democrat head Nick Clegg and Labour head Ed Miliband joined Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon to lay wreaths at a war memorial in London’s Whitehall.
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh also attended a ceremonial beacon lighting event in Windsor Great Park in memory of the beacons and bonfires that were lit across the country when then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared the end of the war with Germany in 1945, while a two-minute silence was held at precisely 3 p.m. local time marking the exact moment of Churchill’s famous radio announcement.
Meanwhile in Germany, Parliament Speaker Norbert Lammert said the day marked the event as a “liberation” from the Nazi regime.
"Today we remember the millions of victims of an unprecedented annihilation campaign against other nations and peoples, against Slavs, against the Jews of Europe," Lammert said as he thanked neighbouring countries for their forgiveness for the crimes committed by Germany during the war years.
In Paris, French President Francois Hollande warned of the reality of war, saying it is closer than people may perceive.
"We didn't experience the war, we see it as a far-off reality, sometimes abstract, even though it is not so far from us, in Ukraine, further still in the Middle East," Hollande said after laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Paris to attend the events, also expressed his solidarity with the people of Ukraine, the army of which is currently fighting with pro-Russian separatist rebels in the east of the country.
"Together we stand firm with the people of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression," Kerry said.
Ukraine also for the first time referred to the war as World War II, in accordance with terms used in the West, thus breaking away from its traditional term “Great Patriotic War” which is used in Russia.
Although Western leaders largely boycotted ceremonies held on Saturday in Russia, up to 40 members of the US Air Force band participated in a Victory Day parade held in the Belarusian capital Minsk alongside Russian armed forces.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is working to play the role of mediator between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis, called the participation of both US and Russian servicemen in the same parade “deeply symbolic.”