Troops from four NATO countries for the first time joined Russia's military parade in Moscow's Red Square to mark the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
Soldiers from the United States, Britain, France, and Poland marched along with Russian troops as some two dozen world leaders looked on.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the heads of almost all the former Soviet republics were among the leaders that attended the event.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi canceled their scheduled trips to Moscow in order to focus on the ongoing crisis surrounding the euro currency. There was no senior official from Britain to watch the parade, which was attended by 76 British soldiers from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards.
With 10,000 Russian troops, hundreds of pieces of military hardware, including tanks and ballistic missiles, as well as a total of 127 military aircraft flying past, the 70-minute parade was the largest event of its kind since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
'Lessons Of World War II'
In a speech to the parade, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said with the defeat of Nazism 65 years ago a "machine that was exterminating whole peoples was halted."
Medvedev said the lessons of World War II "urge us to show solidarity" as "peace is still fragile."
"Only united we can confront current threats. Only with principles of neighborliness, we can solve problems of global security so that principles of justice and good deeds triumph in the whole world and the future generation live happy and free lives," he said.
Similar military parades to mark Victory Day also took place today in more than 70 other Russian cities, from Vladivostok and Khabarovsk in Russia's Far East to St. Petersburg in the west of the country.
World War II is known in Russia and many former Soviet republics as the Great Patriotic War, which began with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.
Dozens of war veterans were invited to a party in Moscow that took place shortly after the Red Square parade and was attended by Medvedev and other leaders.
Russia has reportedly spent some $40 million on the parade, which critics said was the Russian authorities' "show of might."
Unlike Western countries that mark Victory in Europe Day on May 8, Russia celebrates Victory Day on May 9. Nazi Germany's 1945 surrender came into force at 11.01 p.m. Berlin time, when it was already May 9 in Moscow.
with agency reports