Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday headed to Russia to participate in the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow.
“It will be an honour to be part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of World War II. Glad to have opportunity to meet old traditional friends in Moscow including President Putin,” Mukherjee said.
In a first, an Indian military contingent will be part of Russia’s Victory Day parade at the historic Red Square.
“The role of Russian soldiers and civilians changed the course of World War II, its outcome and the future of the world. We recall with deep respect the millions who lost their lives during the war. Tens of thousands of Indian soldiers also sacrificed their lives in the war,” Mukherjee said in an interview to Tass news agency.
This is slated to be Russia’s biggest Victory Day military parade in years.
Moscow is preparing for a show of military might with thousands of troops, motorized artillery and ballistic missile launchers to be paraded past President Vladimir Putin and assembled world leaders, that include Chinese President Xi Jinping, under the Kremlin’s red walls.
Before leaving New Delhi, the Indian President said the commemoration on May 9 would remind people “of the need for all countries to strive actively for peace for the common benefit of humankind and to never forget lessons of the war”.
The Indian President will hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Mukherjee said the “geopolitical realities and cultural affinities have ensured that ours has been a relationship marked by exceptional understanding and convergence of views, through all the realignments in the global political and economic landscape”.
“Russia was the first country with which India concluded a formal agreement on strategic partnership in October 2000,” Mukherjee noted.
May 9th marks the Russian holiday honoring the World War Two victory over Nazi Germany.
This year marks 70 years since the end of World War II.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Jacob Zuma are among those attending the Russian celebrations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will reach Moscow on 10 May to lay a wreath at a war memorial.
More than a dozen countries are sending their military units to take part in the victory parade at the Red Square on May 9th.
26 countries, including China, Greece, Vietnam, Netherlands, Egypt, have confirmed their attendance at the celebrations in Russia.
“As two of the main battlefields in Asia and Europe during World War Two, China and Russia will hold a series of celebrations, and state leaders will attend commemorations held in each other’s country,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in January this year.
China’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, led to the death of some 20 million Chinese, according to Beijing’s estimates. It ended with Tokyo’s World War II defeat in 1945.
Although most Western historians believe that 22 million Soviets died in the Great Patriotic War, Russian sources put the number higher – at 27 million people.
Russia’s Red Army lost 8.5 million troops – a figure comparable only with German losses. Another 18 million were civilians who died as a result of Hitler’s genocide.