Moscow, Jun 24 (efe-epa).- Russia’s president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday defended the “true” role of the Soviet Army in the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II during a Victory Day military parade attended by only a handful of world leaders due to the pandemic.
The Russian leader also used the occasion to call for a new global security system to tackle the challenges of the modern world.
“We will always remember that it was the USSR that defeated the Nazis,” Putin said in an address delivered in Red Square as the country marked the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory in WW2, an event that was postponed from its original 9 May date due to Covid-19.
This year the parade went ahead on the same day the first Soviet victory parade was held in the Moscow square in 1945.
Although the exact figures are disputed, the Russian government says Soviet war losses, both military and civilian, amounted to around 27 million people.
“It’s impossible to imagine what would have happened to the world if the Red Army had not come to its defense,” Putin added.
Last week the Russian president penned an article in the American publication The National Interest in which he blamed Western powers of being responsible for the outbreak of the war, of falsifying history and of failing to recognize the Soviet role in the victory over Nazi Germany.
According to him, Soviet soldiers “liberated all of Europe and put an end to the tragedy of the Holocaust. They defeated the murderous Nazi ideology.”
He said they paid an “incalculable price” for their involvement.
“It’s our duty to remember that the Soviets assumed the greatest role in the fight against Nazism,” he said, adding that in 1941 Adolf Hitler sent 80 percent of his forces to invade the USSR and its satellite states.
Soviet soldiers destroyed “more than 600 divisions, 75 percent of all enemy planes, tanks and artillery.”
More than 14,000 soldiers took part in the parade through Red Square. They were joined by Red Army veterans in the crowd.
The leaders of several former Soviet states, including Belarus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Moldova attended the event but the pandemic prevented dignitaries from the United States, the United Kingdom and France as well as Germany and Japan from joining.
The Kyrgyz president was forced to stay at his hotel after two members of his delegation tested positive for Covid-19.
The decision to hold the parade has been criticized as premature by some media.
Russia said the situation in the country was secure enough to go ahead but urged citizens to stay and watch it from home. All of the soldiers who participated in the event either had antibodies or had quarantined beforehand.
According to a number of independent newspapers in Russia, Moscow Sergey Sobyanin fast-tracked the easing of the city’s lockdown at the request of the Kremlin in order for the parade to take place.
The decision also paves the way to hold the 1 July referendum on constitutional changes, which could see Putin remain in power beyond his current term limit in 2024.
Some 607,000 people have been infected with coronavirus in Russia since the outbreak began, of which 217,000 were in the capital.
In his speech, Putin addressed international leaders.