Russia showed off its military muscle on Friday in the annual Red Square parade marking victory against the German forces in World War II.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made no reference to the situation in Ukraine in a speech before the parade, focusing on the historic importance of the victory.
About 11,000 Russian troops proudly marched across Red Square to the tunes of marches and patriotic songs, followed by columns of dozens of tanks and rocket launchers. About 70 combat aircraft, including giant nuclear-capable strategic bombers, roared overhead.
The West and the Ukrainian government accuse Russia of fomenting the unrest in Ukraine’s east, where insurgents have seized government buildings in a dozen of cities and fought with government troops. They set a referendum on independence for Sunday, a vote similar to a plebiscite that paved way for Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea region of Crimea in March.
Mr. Putin’s surprise call on Wednesday for delaying the referendum in eastern Ukraine appeared to reflect Russia’s desire to distance itself from the separatists as it bargains with the West over a settlement to the Ukrainian crisis.
Mr. Putin also said Russia had withdrawn its forces from the Ukrainian border, but Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said on Thursday there had been no evidence of a pullback.