President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday told a Red Square military parade to mark the 67th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany that the colossal sacrifices made by the Soviet Union in World War Two gave Russia the unquestionable right to advance its position on global security.
“Russia is implementing a policy of strengthening security in the world,” Putin said at a VE Day parade that was his first major speech since his controversial return to the Kremlin earlier this week.
“We have a great moral right to persist in our stance, in so much as it was our country that took upon itself the main thrust of Nazism and met the enemy with heroic resistance, determining the course of the war,” he said in comments carried live by state-run television.
Putin also said lamented the “ideological confrontations” he said were to blame for the failure to prevent World War Two.
“Only the strict observance of international norms, the respect of state sovereignty and the independent choice of the people can guarantee that the tragedy of the war will never be repeated,” he added.
Putin was speaking ahead of a parade that involved 14,000 military personnel and over 100 pieces of military hardware, including Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, S-400 Triumph air defense systems and Iskander-M missile launchers. A total of 1,500 WWII veterans were also invited to attend the parade.
Wednesday’s parade was also attended by Putin’s predecessor in the Kremlin, new Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Some 25 million Soviet soldiers and citizens lost their lives in the battle against Nazism. The Soviet Union entered World War Two in 1941, after Nazi Germany leader Adolf Hitler ordered his forces to invade, in breach of a Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact.
The first Victory Parade was held on Red Square on June 24, 1945 on the order of then-Supreme Commander-in-Chief Joseph Stalin.
Putin was inaugurated as president for a third term on Monday after a landslide victory in March elections marred by allegations of vote fraud. He served four years as prime minister after being forced to stand down by the Constitution in 2008, but remained by far Russia’s most powerful politician.
His return to the Kremlin was met by two days of protests, including prolonged clashes between police and demonstrators in downtown Moscow on the eve of his inauguration. Putin’s opponents accuse him of corruption and a crackdown on political freedoms.