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Vladimir Putin calls for international unity as Russia marks Victory Day

Russian president Vladimir Putin has told the annual Victory Day parade on Red Square that the horrors of the Second World War demonstrate the necessity of countries working together to prevent war.

Russia celebrates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany every May 9 to honour the eight million Red Army soldiers who fought and died for their country.

"This monstrous tragedy was not able to be prevented primarily because of the connivance of the criminal ideology of racial superiority and due to the lack of unity among the world's leading nations," Mr Putin said.

"To effectively combat terrorism, extremism, neo-Nazism and other threats, consolidation of the entire international community is necessary."

The Soviet Union is estimated to have lost 26 million people in the war, including the eight million soldiers.

The nation's immense suffering contributes to Victory Day's status as Russia's most important secular holiday.

Thick clouds over Moscow forced the cancellation of the traditional dramatic conclusion to the parade - the roaring flyover by scores of military aircraft.

The Red Square parade is a highly ritualised display, and marked changes in its order are unusual.

The Defence Ministry had said cloud-seeding planes would be deployed to disperse the overcast skies.

That has been done previously when poor weather threatened.

It was not immediately clear whether the planes had been deployed.

Parades were also held across Russia's sprawling expanse as well as in the Russia-annexed Crimea Peninsula, but the Red Square procession is the centrepiece of Russia's observances.

About 10,000 soldiers participated, standing rigidly as Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reviewed them while standing in an open-top limousine.

The soldiers then marched out to make way for a display of military vehicles ranging from armoured cars to lumbering Topol ICBM launchers.

The parade gave the first public showing of Tor and Pantsir mobile surface-to-air missile that have been adapted for use in Russia's Arctic forces, their white-and-black winter camouflage standing out amid the olive drab of other war machines.

"The armed forces of Russia are capable of repelling any potential aggression," Mr Putin said.

In the afternoon, hundreds of thousands of people braved temperatures near freezing to march in the "Immortal Regiment" demonstration that honours those who fought in the war.

The throng, many of them bearing photos of relatives who endured the war, covered a six-kilometre route down Tverskaya Street, Moscow's most famous avenue, and through Red Square.

Police said the crowd numbered about 600,000, a show of determination to keep the war's renown alive as living memory of it dwindles.

AP

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