MOSCOW (AP) — Russia wants to help build an international security system that transcends military blocs, President Vladimir Putin said Monday at the annual elaborate Victory Day military parade in Red Square on Monday.
Putin's short speech on Monday also warned against "unacceptable double standards that shortsightedly indulge those who are nurturing new criminal plans." He made no specific accusations but both the reference to double standards and the call for a "non-bloc system of international security" echo Russia's frequent criticism of the West and the NATO alliance.
The hour-long parade, in which military equipment including the advanced Armata tank and the Yars ICBM launcher lumbered across the square, concluded with a flyover by dozens of military aircraft from helicopters to long-range bombers.
In the afternoon, a huge of crowd estimated at more than 400,000 held a procession through central Moscow to Red Square honoring the Red Army soldiers who fought in World War II and the civilians who suffered. Many carried photographs of relatives who fought in the war or endured home-front deprivations such as the 872-day siege of Leningrad by Nazi forces.
The Soviet Union is estimated to have lost 26 million people in the war, including 8 million soldiers, and the immense suffering contributes to Victory Day's status as Russia's most important secular holiday. The holiday itself is preceded by several days of detailed reporting of preparations for its observance.
Other military parades and civilian marches were held throughout the country.
The prominence of Victory Day raises concerns every year of being targeted by extremists. Russia reported two series of arrests of people this month allegedly planning attacks.
On Monday, two people were killed and six police officers wounded in a clash at a police checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital of Chechnya. The Interior Ministry said the violence started when police intercepted two men who were trying to bring grenades and explosives into the city.
News reports said one of the men apparently blew himself up and the other was killed in subsequent shooting.
Pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov was killed at a Victory Day celebration in 2004, when a bomb went off under the seats in a Grozny stadium where he was observing ceremonies. The blast was blamed on separatist rebels who have fought two wars in Chechnya since 1994.