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Victory Day 2018: Russia commemorates Nazi Germany's surrender and end of Second World War

Vladimir Putin places huge emphasis on celebrating military glories of Red Army and Moscow's contemporary might while commemorating 26.6m Soviets killed in 'Great Patriotic War'

Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 09 May 2018 15:49 BST
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Russian military hardware on display at the Victory Day parade 2018

Russia today celebrates Victory Day, commemorating the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945 and the end of the Second World War.

While most countries observe VE Day on 8 May, German Oberkommando Alfred Jodl actually signed the Instrument of Surrender late in the evening in Reims, France, past midnight by Moscow time.

The Soviet Union lost an estimated 26.6m lives during the "Great Patriotic War" between 1941 and 1945, entering the conflict after Nazi Germany violated the 1939 Molotov-Rippentrop Pact pledging non-aggression and engaging in brutal battles along the Eastern Front in the dead of winter.

Russia and its former Soviet satellite states typically mark the day with fireworks and shows of military might, with marching troops, flyovers and historic T-34 tanks rolling through Red Square once more.

Veterans wear their old uniforms and medals and are presented with red carnations in honour of their service, as schoolchildren recite the country's wartime history.

This was not always the case: the occasion only became a national holiday in Russia in 1965, despite Ukraine adopting the custom two years earlier. Its importance has grown steadily over time.

President Vladimir Putin has been particularly instrumental in shaping Victory Day's current form, placing huge emphasis on celebrating the Red Army's past glories and the power of the country's modern armed forces.

Russia's newest hardware on show today will include the Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter, the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, the YARS ballistic missile, Armata tanks, S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, BUK surface-to-air missiles and, perhaps most excitingly, the remote-operated Uran-9 tank.

"We feel a piercing blood relationship with a generation of heroes and winners," he told revellers in 2017.

Marchers commonly carry photographs of their relatives who served in the "Immortal Regiment" and wear the orange-and-black Ribbon of St George in their memory.

This year's celebrations in Moscow have added spice as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in attendance at a time when the Iran nuclear deal looks to be in jeopardy.

The Kremlin remains a key military ally of Iran, but Tehran and Israel are sworn enemies, with Mr Netanyahu accusing Iran of lying about its uranium enrichment programme.

Mr Putin and Mr Netanyahu are mutual admirers, however, and have so far kept communication channels open.

Victory Day 2018 also arrives at a moment when Russia continues to face intense criticism on the international stage, accused of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and carrying out the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal on British soil.

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