Shouts of “Hurray!” echoed through Red Square in Moscow on Monday by thousands of soldiers and veterans as Russia celebrates Victory Day, marking the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany 77 years ago to end World War II in Europe.

Rockets, tanks and other armored vehicles exploded over the cobblestones during the annual military parade, and thousands of soldiers marched in tight formation as President Vladimir Putin watched with other dignitaries.

In a speech, he quoted Russian troops at the moment battles in Ukraine and called for a minute of silence in honor of the soldiers who died there.

Victory Day, which is held every May 9, is Russia’s most important holiday, celebrated throughout the country and in many nations of the former Soviet Union with parades, concerts and fireworks. The Russians march with portraits of the so-called Immortal Regiment – their relatives who fought in World War II. Putin joined the campaign and carried a photo of his father.

The Soviet Union lost a staggering 27 million people in what he called the Great Patriotic War.

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