Russia on Friday showcased its military might amid tensions with Ukraine, with thousands of troops marching through the Red Square.
The annual Victory Day parade was held here just weeks after Russia annexed Crimea from the crisis-hit Ukraine.
It also came just days before pro-Moscow rebels’ planned independence votes in eastern Ukraine.
In his speech, President Vladimir Putin praised Russian patriotism and loyalty to the state.
“This is a holiday when all-conquering patriotic force triumphs, when we all feel especially strongly what it means to be true to the Motherland and how important it is to be able to stand up for its interests,” Putin told massed troops to shouts of “Hurrah! Hurrah!”
The day marks 69 years since Russian victory in World War II.
As President Putin watched from the stands, flanked by veterans, dozens of helicopters and planes soared in the bright blue sky over Moscow and thousands of troops marched alongside tanks, mobile missile systems and armoured vehicles to the sound of a brass band.
A similar parade is also planned in Sevastopol, Crimea, later today, the BBC reported.
There is speculation that Putin may fly to Crimea to take part in the parade after attending the military event in Moscow.
Crimea is also marking 70 years since the Red Army retook the region from the Nazis.
In Ukraine, the festivities will be curtailed in order not to further provoke violence in the south and east.
The head of Kiev’s city council banned large-scale public gatherings or parades in the capital, fearing that the veterans could be attacked by “Russian provocateurs”.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he fears recent softer comments from Putin are a prelude to provocation.
“I am concerned about Vladimir Putin’s statement. It caused a bad feeling. They say one thing and do another. After this statement, I asked law enforcement officers to strengthen security measures on May 9,” Yatsenyuk told Ukrainian television.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slammed Russian plans for a military parade in Crimea, citing the heightened tensions in Ukraine.
Merkel said May 9 was an important date in Russia to commemorate the defeat of Hitler’s Nazis but added the current conflict in Ukraine made a parade inappropriate.
“I think it is a shame if such a day is used to hold a parade in such an area of conflict,” Merkel said at a news conference with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
She also said her government was doing all it could to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis, saying while the European Union was ready to take further steps against Russia over Ukraine if needed, imposing further sanctions was not an end in itself.
A deadly few days in Ukraine have transformed the separatist uprising there into a conflict with hardened positions with little immediate prospect of a peaceful resolution.