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As the country celebrates victory in World War II, Putin says the Russian military is always ready

As the country celebrates victory in World War II, Putin says the Russian military is always ready

(CNN) –Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed a crowd celebrating the Soviet Union’s victory over the Nazis in World War II in Moscow’s Red Square on Thursday, saying he was “always ready” to fight external threats.

The Annual Russian procession Victory Day on May 9 has long been a staple of Putin’s calendar, an opportunity to rally public support and demonstrate his country’s military might.

Fewer soldiers and military equipment were on display than before Moderate event last yearRussia is advancing to the front lines in Ukraine this year.

Putin delivered his speech after inspecting the traditional formation of troops and tanks marching through the capital.

“Russia will do everything not to allow the start of a global conflict,” Putin added: “But we will not allow anyone to threaten, our strategic forces are always ready.”

“Dear friends, Russia is going through a difficult period,” the Russian leader continued, “and the struggle of our motherland depends on each of us.”

“Today, on Victory Day, we feel this even more,” he said, ending his speech with a minute’s silence.

About 27 million people died in the Soviet Union in World War II, more than any other country.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu greets soldiers as they are escorted through Red Square. (Credit: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Parade of ceremonial soldiers on Red Square. (Credit: Sefa Karagan/Anatolu/Getty Images)

Russia’s Defense Minister, Army General Sergei Shoigu, said in a statement on Telegram that 9,000 people and 70 pieces of military equipment will take part in the main military parade on Red Square.

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That’s down from last year, which Shoigu said included more than 10,000 people and 125 pieces of military equipment.

Many world leaders were invited, mostly from former Soviet countries.

Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Kazim-Jomart Togayev of Kazakhstan, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, Serdar Berdimuhamedo of Turkmenistan, Miguel Díaz-Canal of Cuba, Thonglon Chisolith of Laos and Kwako Emaro-Chisolith of Laos were expected to attend.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an interview with TASS that “hostile countries” have not been invited to the third Victory Day since the start of the war in Ukraine.

“They are pursuing an aggressive policy towards our country. They are making it a strategic failure,” said Zajarova.

Putin attended the military parade. (Credit: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Reuters)

Putin has portrayed his invasion of Ukraine as patriotic, a response to Western threats that Kiev and its allies flatly reject.

The Russian leader’s Victory Day speech comes days after he was inaugurated for his fifth term in a carefully choreographed ceremony.

Russia’s top military and political leaders attended Tuesday’s inauguration in the Kremlin, but the United States and several European countries refused to send a representative after dismissing the Russian elections as a farce.

It further cemented Putin’s grip on power in Russia, where he has served as president or prime minister since taking office in 2000, and the Russian constitution was amended to eliminate term limits and extend each four-term term to six years.

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