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Russia marks Victory Day with vast annual Red Square military parade

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with senior officers at a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier at the Kremlin wall on the eve of Victory Day marking the defeat of Nazi Germany 69 years ago in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, May 8, 2014. Russia will mark Victory Day on May 9 holding a military parade in Red Square in Moscow. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

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Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with senior officers at a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier at the Kremlin wall on the eve of Victory Day marking the defeat of Nazi Germany 69 years ago in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, May 8, 2014. Russia will mark Victory Day on May 9 holding a military parade in Red Square in Moscow. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

MOSCOW - Thousands of Russian troops are marching on Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade in a proud display of the nation's military might amid escalating tensions over Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin made no reference to the situation in Ukraine when he opened Friday's parade, focusing on the historic importance of the victory over Nazi Germany.

Victory Day is Russia's most important secular holiday and a key element of the national identity, reflecting the nation's enormous suffering and honouring millions of victims of World War II.

The holiday also offers a chance to display the nation's massive military arsenal.

About 11,000 troops proudly marched across Red Square to the tunes of marches and patriotic songs. Some 150 military vehicles and about 70 combat aircraft took part in the show.

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