Russia has marked the 65th anniversary of victory in World War II with a spectacular military parade that emphasised East-West wartime cooperation that helped defeat fascism in Europe.
For the first time ever, serving U.S., British, French and Polish troops, as well as servicemen from many former Soviet states joined over 10,000 Russian soldiers to parade on Moscow's Red Square in a sign that the “reset” in Russian-American relations undertaken a year ago is spreading to Russia's ties with Europe.
Addressing the parade attended by dozens of foreign dignitaries, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also sought to underline the new spirit of cooperation.
“It is only together can we counter present-day threats. It is only as good neighbours can we resolve problems of global security in order that the ideals of justice and good triumph in all of the world and that the lives of future generations will be free and happy,” said Mr. Medvedev in a short speech that lacked traditional criticism of the West.
Foreign leaders in attendance included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, China's President Hu Jintao, Israeli President Shimon Peres, other European and Asian heads of state, as well as the leaders of most ex-Soviet states.
The latter included Presidents of Latvia and Estonia, whose presence at a V-Day parade in Moscow would have been unthinkable a few years ago, when the U.S. under the neo-con Republican Administration stoked anti-Russian sentiments in Eastern Europe.
In his statement in Washington U.S. President Barack Obama, regretting a scheduling clash that prevented his visit, praised Mr. Medvedev for showing “remarkable leadership in honouring the sacrifices of those who came before us”.
The U.S. military was represented at the Moscow parade by a detachment from the 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment; France was represented by the Normandie-Niemen squadron; Britain sent in 76 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, wearing bright red tunics and tall bearskin caps and Poland deployed 75 service personnel representing the Polish army, air force and navy.
“This war made us a strong nation,” said Mr. Medvedev flagging off an impressive display of the Russian military strength.
The largest military parade in Russia's post-Soviet period opened with WWII-era T-34 tanks followed by some of the latest weapon systems, including the Pantsir-S1 and S-400 air-defence systems and the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile.
More than a 100 helicopters, fighters, bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and refuelling planes screamed over Red Square at low altitudes, some displaying a huge number “65” in the sky, others releasing red, white and blue smoke in the colours of the Russian flag.
Military parades were simultaneously held in 70 Russian cities involving 102,000 troops.