Russian President Vladimir Putin reviewed his country’s World War II victory parade on Sunday amid spiking tensions with the West.
More than 12,000 troops took part in the traditional parade, as well as about 190 pieces of large military hardware and 76 military aircraft.
Putin told the troops and veterans massed in Red Square: “Russia consistently defends international law. At the same time, we will firmly defend our national interests to ensure the safety of our people.”
Recent tensions between the Kremlin and the West have escalated over the conflict in Ukraine, the fate of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, and a series of spy scandals in Europe which evoked memories of the Cold War.
Putin denounced what he called a creeping return of ideologies of that time, when “slogans of racial and national superiority, of anti-Semitism and Russophobia, became ever more cynical”.
Washington and Moscow have expelled each other’s diplomats in recent months in a series of retaliatory moves. Moscow and EU member states have engaged in a similar tit-for-tat diplomatic dispute.
This year’s Victory Day parade was the second during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Russia has lifted nearly all of its measures to limit the spread of virus, though a ban on mass gatherings remains in place in most regions.
TASS news agency reported on Monday that 21.5 million Russians, 15% of the population, have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
“We need to actively continue getting tested and getting vaccinated,” Putin said in comments posted on the Kremlin website.
Putin also revealed that he was tested for Covid-19 antibodies on Sunday and the result showed a good level of antibodies. The 68-year-old received shots of a Russian-made vaccine in March and April.
The president scored several goals in a game of ice hockey on Monday, appearing in an amateur league for the first time since the pandemic began.
Russia reported 8,465 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours on Monday, taking the national tally to 4,888,727.