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Moscow prepares VE Day parade, despite snub by West

Moscow is preparing to hold its commemorations marking 70 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe. Western leaders have snubbed the occasion in protest at Moscow's alleged actions in Ukraine.

Moscow is preparing to hold its commemorations marking 70 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe. Western leaders have snubbed the occasion in protest at Moscow's alleged actions in Ukraine.

China's Xi Jinping was among the world leaders in Moscow on Saturday for Russia's VE Day celebrations, marking seven decades since the end of the Second World War.

Western leaders have opted not to attend the event, amid a bitter standoff over Moscow's apparent support for pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

However, more than 20 leaders were expected to watch a morning parade, with 16,000 troops on display as well as hardware including Russia's latest generation of Armata tanks.

'The heaviest losses'

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday paid tribute to one of his counterparts, Chinese President Xi Jinping, calling him "our great friend."

Xi noted that the two countries had suffered greater losses of life then any of the nations that were involved in World War Two. "Our peoples suffered the heaviest national losses," Xi said in comments translated into Russian. "The peoples of Russia and China fought shoulder to shoulder."

In a congratulatory note to mark the anniversary, Putin also saluted the leaders of the former Soviet republics that fought along with Russia as part of the Soviet Union. However, he pointedly congratulated only the "citizens" of Ukraine, rather than Kyiv's pro-Western government.

More than 26 million Soviet citizens lost their lives in the Second World War, eight million of which were troops.

Other guests on the list

South African President Jacob Zuma and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic arrived ahead of the parade on Friday, while Indian President Pranab Mukherjee arrived Thursday.

Among those also scheduled to attend were Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, Cuban President Raul Castro, Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro and Zimbawe's Robert Mugabwe.

While most Western leaders will not visit Russia as part of the anniversary, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to arrive in Moscow on Sunday, to lay a wreath and hold talks with Putin.

Russia's celebrations take place a day later than those in Western Europe because of a time lag, when the surrender became effective. For the first time in 70 years, Ukraine on Friday joined most of Europe in marking the end of the World War Two on May 8.

rc/jr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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