This year’s 72nd Victory Day parade included some 10 000 members of the armed forces showcasing more than 100 advanced military hardware, including tanks, anti-ballistic missiles, and other displays of Russian defence systems and weaponry, as TU-160 and TU-95MS bomber aircraft fly over Red Square in the capital Moscow.

At least 24 other Russian cities are holding parades to mark the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis, while some 4 000 Russian cities and towns are holding hundreds of festive events celebrating Victory Day, that are expected to be attended by millions of people – from young to old.

Moscow will hold hundreds of events commemorating the World War II victory, with a fireworks display in the evening.

Russian Vladimir Putin, who attended the Red Square parade, said that the attack on Russia in 1941 was “due to the disunity of the world’s leading countries, which allowed Nazis to appropriate the right to decide the destiny of other peoples, unleash the cruelest and the bloodiest war, enslave and make almost all European countries serve their deadly goals”.

At least 60 million people died during World War II, 1939-1945; in the former Soviet Union, more than 26 million people died to defeat Nazi Germany.

On May 2, 1945, Soviet forces stormed into the heart of Berlin and hoisted their flag over the German Reichstag but it wasn’t until the late evening of May 8 that German forces throughout Europe formally surrendered.

Putin said that the Russian military would prevent such a war from ever happening again and that no force could conquer the Russian people.

“The lessons of the past war urge us to be vigilant and the Russian Armed Forces are capable of repelling any potential aggression,” the Russian leader said, stressing that “today life itself requires increasing our defense potential,” Putin said in his speech which was televised live and reprinted in Russian media.