Thousands of troops and tanks paraded through Moscow's Red Square today to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II in an extravagant display that seemingly spared no expense, but also showed signs of Russia's increasing isolation from the West.
China's President Xi Jingping, India's Pranab Mukherjee, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon were all in attendance, as well as leaders from Egypt, Cuba, Venezuela, Palestine, and South Africa. But leaders from most Western countries, including the US and UK, were conspicuously absent, staying away in an apparent protest over Russia's role in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also opted out of attending the parade, but plans to visit Russia tomorrow and lay wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with President Vladimir Putin.
Russia took the celebrations as an opportunity to show off some of their newest and most powerful weaponry, including the Armata T-14 tank. About 100 warplanes flew overhead, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are capable of carrying three nuclear warheads each, also rolled through the parade.
Approximately 16,000 troops participated in the celebrations, including battalions from China, Kazakhstan, and India. Smaller celebrations were also held in 26 other major Russian cities, including two cities in the annexed territory of Crimea.
Putin gave a speech that made reference to the growing rift between Russia and many of its former allies during WWII. "In recent decades the basic principles of international cooperation have been ignored ever more frequently," Putin said. "We see how a military-bloc mentality is gaining momentum."
Putin also criticized recent "attempts to create a unipolar world," in an apparent swipe at the US. There was, however, at least some American presence at the festivities, with actor Steven Seagal, a friend of Putin's, making an appearance.
The Soviet Red Army's defeat Nazi Germany on May 9, 1945 remains a huge point of national pride in Russia. Victory Day is the most important non-religious holiday in the country, and this year's parade was the the biggest military demonstration yet. The Soviet Union lost more than 26 million people in WWII, which it refers to as the Great Patriotic War, more than any other country.
Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928