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Western troops join Russia's Victory Day parade

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The Soviet Union suffered the most losses of any country during World War II
  • Millions of Russians watched the parade on TV, attended smaller parades
  • Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: says the victory won in 1945 was "our common victory"
  • Russia
  • World War II

Moscow, Russia (CNN) -- Troops from the United States, Britain and France marched in the annual Victory Day parade through Red Square for the first time Sunday, a step Russia's president called a nod toward their "common victory" in World War II.

The annual parade celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany by the former Soviet Union and its Western allies and serves as a demonstration of Russian military might. More than 120 aircraft flew overhead and more than 10,500 troops paraded through the capital this year.

"The victory won in 1945 was our common victory, a victory of good over evil, of justice over lawlessness," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said at a reception honoring veterans after the parade.

Including military representatives from other countries in Sunday's parade, Medvedev said, "is indicative of our solidarity, and of the understanding that universal humanistic values are becoming increasingly important for the development of the modern world."

Chinese President Hu Jintao and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among the parade's invited guests.

Millions of Russians watched the parade on television and attended smaller parades in cities across the country, and more than half of Russians greeted the invitation to foreign troops with approval, according to a poll by the independent Levada Center in April.

But leaders of the Communist Party and right-wing organizations have criticized the change. And in a country that still regards the U.S.-led NATO alliance as its primary security threat, 20 percent of respondents to Levada's poll said they disapproved of inviting international troops to march in the parade, and 8 percent were strongly against it.

The Soviet Union suffered the most losses of any country during World War II, with more than 7.5 million soldiers killed and 5 million wounded, along with millions of civilian deaths.

Most Russians say they believe the Red Army would have defeated Hitler without Western assistance, Levada's research shows.

CNN's Matthew Chance contributed to this report.