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Russia Celebrates WWII Victory Over Germany

Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET

A Victory Day parade through Moscow's Red Square marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in which Soviet Russia lost an estimated 24 million soldiers and civilians — more than any other combatant.

The huge formations of soldiers and military equipment filing past the Kremlin were billed as the largest parade of its kind since the collapse of the USSR.

NPR's Corey Flintoff, reporting from Moscow, witnessed military bands and a chorus of martial music performed by thousands of troops passing in review.

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"The parade featured some of Russia's newest heavy weapons, including a high-tech tank touted as the most advanced in the world," Corey says.

"President Vladimir Putin watched the spectacle from a reviewing stand he shared with heads of state from about 30 countries, including China, India, Brazil and South Africa," he says.

The parade included about 200 vehicles and a fly-by of 150 airplanes and helicopters. As The Telegraph noted ahead of the celebrations in Moscow: "Russia will also use the parade to publicly unveil its new Armata T-14 tank ... [Organizers] will be hoping the tank doesn't break down, as it appeared to do in a dress rehearsal on Thursday."

According to Reuters:

"In his address, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid tribute to the Red Army and thanked wartime allies France, Britain and the United States for helping to defeat Nazi Germany.

"He added, however, that there had been "attempts to create a unipolar world" in recent decades, apparently [referring] to the US which Moscow has criticized for seeking to dominate global affairs."

The parade in Moscow comes a day after the Allied Victory in Europe (V-E Day) in the West, which was celebrated on Friday.

The reason for the different days, The Atlantic explains, is that with Adolph Hitler already dead, his chosen successor, U-Boat chief Karl Doenitz was left to negotiate the surrender of the Third Reich.

Doenitz in turn delegated Gen. Alfred Jodl, the chief of staff of the German Weirmacht, to sign the instrument of surrender at a meeting with allied representatives in Reims, France.

According to The Atlantic:

"[The] signature of Jodl, a relatively low-ranking general, was not enough ... for the Soviet Union, which had suffered by far the most casualties among the Allies fighting the Germans. The reason had to do with the last time Germany surrendered, 55 miles to the west, in 1918. The surrender had been signed by a civilian politician who opposed the war and not by Germany's top military commander. Hitler and his allies later claimed this meant that German forces hadn't really lost, but had been "stabbed in the back" by their political opponents. Determined to avoid this outcome after World War II, the Soviets insisted that the head of Germany's Armed Forces High Command, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, surrender personally to Joseph Stalin's representative in Berlin."

After some delay over an incomplete text, Keitel signed the surrender with the USSR in the early morning hours of May 9.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.