Vladimir Putin has praised the strength of Russia’s “all-conquering” patriotism and has stressed the importance of standing up for the interests of “the Motherland” amid tension in Ukraine following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
The Russian president’s comments came at a military parade in Moscow on Friday, shortly before flying to Crimea’s Sevastopol for the first time since incorporating the peninsular into Russian Federation.
In Moscow, thousands of Russian troops marched in Red Square to mark 69 years since victory in the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany, known as World War Two elsewhere.
“This is a holiday when all-conquering patriotic force triumphs, when we all feel especially strongly what it means to be true to the Motherland and how important it is to be able to stand up for its interests,” Putin told massed troops to shouts of “Hurrah!”
The Moscow parade put on view about 150 items of military hardware including for the first time new Tor-M2U air defence missile system, the powerful Chrysanthemum-S anti-tank missile system and Typhoon armoured vehicles.
A total of 69 aircraft were to zoom 200 metres above Moscow rooftops, including Tupolev TU-160 bombers.
The show of military might came less than two months after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsular, which has encouraged pro-Russian uprising in east and southeastern parts of Ukraine.
The separatists seized control of a number of cities, planning to break off from Kiev government after a referendum on May 11 and join Russia. Russia denies any involvement.
Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, said on Friday that the Ukrainian crisis was a consequence of the “unskillful and unprofessional” policy to bring Kiev closer to the EU and the USA.
Russia and other ex-Soviet countries mark Nazi surrender a day later than Western countries celebrated Victory Day due to the time difference.
The Soviet Union lost an estimated 30 million people during World War Two.
Russia has accused the new Kiev leadership of support for a wartime fighter who collaborated with the Nazis, Stepan Bandera, and regularly refers to pro-Russian separatists as fighting “neo-Nazis” and “fascists.”
“In Europe, militant nationalism is rearing its head again, the same that led to the appearance of Nazi ideology,” Putin warned on Thursday in a speech to leaders of other ex-Soviet states.