President Vladimir Putin reviewed Russia’s traditional WWII victory parade on Sunday, a patriotic display of raw military might that this year coincides with rising tensions with the West.
The parade in Moscow’s Red Square commemorating the 76th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II featured more than 12,000 soldiers and more than 190 pieces of military equipment, including launchers of Intercontinental ballistic missiles and a flyby of nearly 80 military planes under a cloudy sky.
Putin, who has been in power as president or prime minister since 1999, stood alongside Soviet veterans on a viewing platform set up in Red Square.
This year’s parade precedes the September parliamentary elections and comes at a time when Moscow’s relations with the West are extremely strained on issues ranging from the conflict in Ukraine to the fate of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
The United States and Russia have kicked out their diplomats in recent months in a series of retaliatory measures and Moscow and European Union member states have been embroiled in a similar diplomatic dispute.
“Russia will respect international law again and again, but at the same time, we will firmly protect national interests (and) ensure the safety of our people,” Putin said.
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Sunday’s parade follows a massive display of Russian military force near Ukraine’s borders and in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Kiev in 2014, and renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces.
Moscow said the build-up, which alarmed the West, was a training exercise in response to the activity of the military alliance of NATO and Ukraine. He has since ordered the withdrawal of some troops.
Smaller military parades took place on Sunday in cities across Russia and in annexed Crimea.
A parade was also planned at the Russian air base in Hmeymim in Syria.