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Vladimir Putin oversees Russia Victory Day parade

Vladimir Putin was on Red Square and oversaw the parade where Russia displayed its military hardware. Our Moscow Correspondent Emma Burrows was there and watched as weapons rolled through the center of Moscow.

Vladimir Putin was on Red Square and oversaw the parade where Russia displayed its military hardware. Our Moscow Correspondent Emma Burrows was there and watched as weapons rolled through the center of Moscow.
Victory Day commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Soviets on May 9, 1945. Every year it is remembered with military parades across Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

In total, Russian state media say more than 10,000 people took part in the capital city parade this year with 135 items of military hardware passing down Moscow’s streets, accompanied by 71 planes and helicopters.

Despite the obvious political message, the parade is, for Russians, first and foremost a time to remember their families who fought, died and were besieged during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, as it is known in Russia.

Across Europe, millions of families have a connection to the Second World War, but no country was perhaps quite as touched by the sheer number of deaths as the former Soviet Union.

It is difficult to obtain hard and fast figures – many Soviet soldiers are still officially missing in battle, dying and eventually being buried by the mud where they fell – but it is widely estimated that Russia and the countries of the former USSR lost more than 20 million people during the war, both civilians and military casualties.

Virtually every family in Russia will have been touched by it; on Monday, people came out onto the streets to remember those who fought and died.

This parade, however, is not just about the past – it is also about Russia’s present.

Political message

Thousands of people lined the streets of Moscow to watch as the military drove its hardware through the city.

First, battalion after battalion of soldiers marched in regimented lines in front of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Then came the tanks, the missiles and the aircraft.

Standing right on Red Square, meters from the hardware on display and close enough to smell the fuel from the tanks, it was a sight deliberately designed to inspire awe and send the message around the world that Russia is not to be trifled with.

Advanced weaponry

On display was the highly capable and advanced Armata tank, SU-25 aircraft and gigantic Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Also displayed was the advanced S-400 anti-aircraft weapons system which Russia currently has deployed in Syria – another staging ground where it has taken the opportunity to show off its military might.

Before the parade, Vladimir Putin said that Russia wanted to help build a “non-bloc system of international security.” He also warned against “unacceptable double standards that shortsightedly indulge those who are nurturing new criminal plans.”

Although he made no specific accusations, his comments echoed Russia’s frequent criticism of the west supporting so-called ‘moderate’ rebels in Syria and the build-up of the NATO alliance in Eastern Europe.

President Putin is a man who is seen in the west as a troublemaker – for annexing Crimea, supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

But at home in Russia, despite an economic downturn which has seen living standards fall for many, he is incredibly popular.

After the parade today, in the sunshine, President Putin strolled across the cobbles of Red Square. The lucky few who had been allocated seats in the bandstand clapped and cheered as he walked past.

“Thank you,” they shouted.

There is, from many Russians I have spoken to, a sense that President Putin has restored some of this country’s pride after the fall of the Soviet Union and the economic collapse and chaos of the 1990s.

Parades like today’s help to bolster that sense of pride. They are not only a way to remember the past, but also to look to the future and to demonstrate to the world that Russia is a power to be reckoned with.

And, at home in Russia, that message seems very popular.

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