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Putin Presides Over Massive Victory Day Ceremonies

Russian President Vladimir Putin (second left) and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (center) during Victory Day ceremonies in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (second left) and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (center) during Victory Day ceremonies in Moscow.
Speaking at massive Victory Day ceremonies in Moscow's Red Square, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the "iron will" and resilience of the Russian people saved Europe from slavery.

Putin said the holiday, which this year marks the 69th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, is Russia's greatest.

He also called the war, known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, a source of patriotism, sorrow, and pride for the Russian people.

"This is a day of national triumph, national pride, a day of mourning, and eternal memory," he said.

And he praised Russia's "all-conquering patriotic force."

"It is a holiday when the invincible power of patriotism triumphs," he said, "when we all have a particularly acute feeling of what it means to be loyal to one's motherland and how important it is to defend its interest."

The country's military was on full display during the ceremonies, which were also taking place in 25 other cities across Russia.

Putin later traveled to Crimea for his first visit since that Ukrainian peninsula was annexed by Russia in March, inspecting naval forces and coming ashore in Sevastopol to hail the area's return "to the fold of the motherland."

Military Message?

Some 11,000 troops took part in the parade on Red Square, along with around 150 units of military hardware, plus a flyover by 69 warplanes, including Mig-29s and military attack helicopters in tight formation.

The mightiest weapons on show were from the country's missile force, including the truck-borne intercontinental Topol-M nuclear missiles.

Infantry units paraded past the reviewing stand, presided over by Putin and military and political leaders. The soldiers marched in tight formation to the sound of drums and brass bands.

The units displayed emblems and standards of the Soviet military, as well as the modern Russian Army.

Patriotism At A High

The parade ended with a band playing "Farewell Slavic Maiden," a tune played throughout World War II as soldiers embarked at train stations for the front.

Some 2,000 veterans of World War II were in attendance among a crowd of spectators estimated in the tens of thousands. The veterans sat next to Putin in a place of honor.

The Moscow parade was broadcast in real time on Russian state television with patriotic commentary.

Over 27 million Soviet citizens and soldiers died during the war, the highest number of casualties suffered by one of the combatant countries.

This year's celebration comes with patriotism on the rise in Russia, fueled by the country's annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Russian media earlier reported that Putin may attend Victory Day ceremonies in Sevastopol, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet is based.
With reporting by Reuters, ITAR-TASS, RT, and "The Moscow Times"
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