(by Agence France-Presse at UK Daily Mail) — Russia marked the 76th anniversary of its victory in World War II with an annual Victory Day Parade.
President Vladimir Putin vowed in a speech on Sunday that Russia will “firmly” defend national interests and denounced the return of “Russophobia.”
He addressed thousands of soldiers and veterans at Red Square during the start of an annual parade that sees hundred of pieces of military hardware roll through the streets of Moscow.
“The Soviet people kept their sacred oath, defended the homeland and freed the countries of Europe from the black plague,” Putin told the gathered crowd.
“Russia consistently defends international law. At the same time, we will firmly defend our national interests to ensure the safety of our people,” he said.
The Russian leader also denounced what he called a creeping return of ideologies of the time, when “slogans of racial and national superiority, of anti-semitism and Russophobia, became ever more cynical.”
He decried “attempts to rewrite history, to justify traitors and criminals, on whose hands lies the blood of hundreds of thousands of peaceful people.
“Unfortunately, many of the ideologies of the Nazis, those who were obsessed with the delusional theory of their exclusiveness, are again trying to be put into service,” he said, without citing specifics.
The state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported that more than 12,000 military personnel would take part in Sunday’s parade in the Russian capital, as well as some 190 pieces of military equipment, ranging from the renowned WWII-era T-34 tank to the hulking eight-axle Yars mobile ICBM launchers.
Victory Day parades, which only became an annual event after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, also took place Sunday in dozens of cities across Russia.
During Putin’s two decades in power, the public holiday has taken on increasing importance in projecting Russia’s renewed military might.
On Sunday night, an enormous firework display lit up the skies of Moscow in reds, blues and yellows.
A survey this week by state-run pollster VTsIOM showing that 69 percent of Russians view it as the most important holiday on the calendar.
A third of respondents told VTsIOM they would take part in the celebrations, while a fifth said they would watch on television.
The commemorations of the 76th anniversary of the 1945 victory come as tensions with the West have reached near Cold War times in recent weeks.
Many former Soviet republics also celebrate the end of WWII on May 9.
The anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat, which Russia calls Victory Day, is the country’s most significant secular holiday, commemorating the Red Army’s military feats and the vast suffering of civilians.
About 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians are estimated to have died in the war.
Russia has seen its diplomats expelled from a clutch of European countries over espionage scandals, as the United States and the European Union levied new sanctions on Moscow over the treatment of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, as well as allegations of hacking and cyber attacks.
Moscow has stepped up military activity abroad, intervening on behalf of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria’s civil war. It is also widely seen as backing pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Tensions in the conflict, which erupted after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, have also soared in recent weeks.
Clashes between the government and separatists have been intensifying since January in a conflict which has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Russia last month amassed 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders and in Crimea, its biggest buildup since 2014, though it then announced a drawdown.
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to Kiev in a show of support for Ukraine against Russia, and before an expected summit between Putin and Biden next month.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky travelled with European diplomats to the pro-Russian breakaway eastern region of Lugansk to commemorate the end of WWII.
From an AFP (Agence France-Presse) published at UK Daily Mail on May 9, 2021. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission.
NOTE: Before answering the following questions, watch the videos under “Resources” below.
1. List the who, what, where and when of the news item.
2. How many military personnel took part in Russia’s Victory Day parade?
3. When did Russia first hold Victory Day parades marking victory over Nazi Germany?
4. What does the reporter imply is one of President Putin’s reasons for the commemoration?
5. How important are the annual commemorations to Russians?
6. How many Soviet soldiers and civilians are estimated to have died in WWII?
7. Why do you think Russians who might not support Vladimir Putin would still place such great importance on this commemoration?
8. Last year – 2020 – marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe day). Due to covid-19, all events were canceled. It was reported this year that “due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there were no major public gatherings to mark VE day” in the UK or France. Yet Russia held a huge parade in Moscow with thousands of soldiers and some spectators. No masks. (Watch the videos.) – Also, parades took place in dozens of cities across Russia. What do you think of the difference in commemorations of this important day to both Russia and Europe?
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