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Putin brushes off Western boycott of World War II victory commemorations

Military tanks and troops paraded across Moscow’s Red Square to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet’s victory over Nazi Germany. Western leaders stayed away protesting Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.

In what was seen as punishment for Moscow meddling in the Ukraine crisis, many Western leaders, led by Russia's wartime allies,

boycotted the country's 70th anniversary commemorations

of victory in World War II.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was left to mark the May 9 festivities with around 30 Moscow-friendly foreign leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping.

As a show of increasing political ties between Beijing and Moscow, Chinese soldiers were seen taking part in the parade. More than 16,000 troops, including those from India, Mongolia and Serbia also marched past the leaders.

Dignitaries from India, former Soviet republics and allies such as communist Cuba attended the parade, as well as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not attend Saturday's commemorations, nor did US President Barack Obama or French and British leaders. However, Merkel is expected to attend a wreath-laying service on Sunday in Moscow.

Speaking to thousands of foreign guests and war veterans, Putin ignored the boycott, instead thanking Britain, France and the US for their “contribution” to helping defeat Nazi Germany.

“Our fathers and grandfathers went through unbearable suffering, deprivation and losses,” Putin said.

“We are grateful to the people of Great Britain, France and the United States for their contribution to victory,” he added, also thanking the people who fought the Nazis in other countries, including Germany.

Russland Militärparade in Moskau

Throngs of residents flooded central Moscow to view the parade commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany

Russia was keen to show off its new fleet of tanks during the procession - the Armata T-14s - the first new line of tank and missile systems Russia has acquired in 40 years.

The parade also saw hundreds of military aircraft – including long-range nuclear bombers – fly over Moscow.

Russian Night Wolves gather in Berlin

Meanwhile, in Berlin, several thousand people gathered at the German capital's largest Soviet war memorial to mark the end of Nazi reign.

Among those in attendance was Russia's ambassador, and bikers wearing the colors of the nationalist Night Wolves motorcycle group.

Members of the biker group waved Russian or Soviet flags, as people laid flowers at the memorial in Berlin's Treptow district which includes a mausoleum topped with a statue of a solider standing on top of a shattered swastika, the emblem of Adolf Hilter's Nazi's.

The pro-Moscow Night Wolves ride from Russia to Berlin to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe sparked controversy, particularly in Poland where authorities denied them entry to the country.

German courts determined there was not legal reason preventing them from entering the country.

Members of the biker group reportedly laid carnations on Friday at the site where Nazi Germany signed documents surrendering to the Soviet Union.

jlw/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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