Al Jazeera's Neave Barker, in Moscow, said: "This is a hugely significant event this year because of the inclusion of Nato troops.

"Historically this has been a chance to show off military muscle, very much a heavily choreographed piece of Soviet Union propaganda.

"But for the first time the decision to include other nations that fought alongside the Russians in bringing about the end of the second world war is a major step forward in bilateral relations between Russia and a number of the other countries in Western Europe.

"But also historically for a country that is slowly coming to terms with its brutal history."

Memory of war

Barker said that with more than 20 million Russians having been killed during World War II, more than any other nation fighting, there was a real need to preserve the memory of the war in Russians' consciousness.

Barack Obama, the US president, praised on Sunday the invitation to Nato and criticism made by his counterpart of abuses committed by the Soviet Union, which fell in 1989.

IN VIDEO

Neave Barker looks at Stalin's legacy as Russia marks 65 years of victory over Nazi Germany

"President [Dmitry] Medvedev has shown remarkable leadership in honouring the sacrifices of those who came before us, and in speaking so candidly about the Soviet Union's suppression of elementary rights and freedoms," Obama said in a statement.

"His words remind us that we must all work together on behalf of a world in which the fundamental human rights that all people deserve are protected."

Medvedev said on Friday that the Soviet Union had been a "totalitarian" regime in which "elementary rights and freedoms were suppressed" in a rare censure of the past administration by a Russian leader.

Obama was unable to attend the parade due to a scheduling clash.

Communists in Russia, who make up the contry's second biggest political party, spoke out against the invitation of foreign forces, stating that it was a violation of tradition and a reminder that their nation lost the Cold War.

They said that they will hold a rally in protest in central Moscow after the parade.