Russia’s celebration of victory in World War II is a key pillar of Putin’s rule

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Russian Air Force Su-25 jets fly over Red Square leaving trails of smoke in the colours of the Russian national flag during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia on May 9 marking the 79th anniversary of the end of World War II. (AP)

MOSCOW, May 9, (AP): Russia on Thursday wrapped itself in patriotic pageantry for Victory Day, a celebration of its defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II that President Vladimir Putin has turned into a pillar of his nearly quarter-century in power and a justification of his military action in Ukraine.
Even though few veterans of what Russia calls the Great Patriotic War are still alive 79 years after Berlin fell to the Red Army, the victory over Nazi Germany remains the most important and widely revered symbol of the country’s prowess and a key element of national identity.
Thursday’s festivities across Russia, led by Putin who this week began his fifth term in office, recall that wartime sacrifice in what has become its most important secular holiday.
“The Victory Day unites all generations,” Putin said in a speech at Red Square parade held in shivering cold with snow flurries. “We are going forward relying on our centuries-old traditions and feel confident that together we will ensure a free and secure future of Russia.”
He hailed the troops fighting in Ukraine for their courage and blasted the West, accusing it of “fueling regional conflicts, inter-ethnic and inter-religious strife and trying to contain sovereign and independent centers of global development.”
Amid Russia-West tensions that soared to the highest level since the Cold War times over Ukraine, Putin also issued another stark reminder about Russia’s nuclear might.
“Russia will do everything to prevent global confrontation, but will not allow anyone to threaten us,” he said. “Our strategic forces are in combat readiness.”
The Soviet Union lost about 27 million people in the war, an estimate that many historians consider conservative, scarring virtually every family.

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