Russia held a huge parade to mark 69 years since the Soviets defeated the Nazis, amid a surge of patriotism over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin said it was a day when an “overwhelming force of patriotism triumphs”, and vowed to defend the interests of the motherland.
Unconfirmed reports say Vladimir Putin will visit a parade in Crimea later.
Festivities in Ukraine will be muted amid fears of provoking further violence in the south and east.
Moscow denies fomenting pro-Russian separatist unrest in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin did not mention Ukraine in his speech, instead stressing how the “iron will of the Soviet people” had saved Europe from slavery.
He told the crowd that May 9, known as Victory Day in Russia, was a “day of grief and eternal memory”.
Russia held a huge parade to mark 69 years since the Soviets defeated the Nazis
“It is a holiday when an overwhelming force of patriotism triumphs, when all of us feel particularly acutely what it means to be loyal to the motherland and how important it is to defend its interests,” Vladimir Putin said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it would be a pity if Vladimir Putin were to use the commemorations to visit Crimea.
The parade in Moscow traditionally features a display of military hardware and a show of patriotic fervor on Red Square.
The scope of this year’s event was bigger than usual:
The parade lasted 59 minutes, compared with its usual 45 minute running time
Fifty more military vehicles were on display compared with last year
The Sevastopol-based Black Sea Fleet played a larger role
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s interim authorities have discouraged public gatherings amid fears that pro-Russian activists might try to stoke violence.
“Roadblocks have been set up around our capital, where serious checks are being carried out, because we expect that provocative actions may occur on May 9,” said Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov.
A low-key wreath-laying ceremony is planned in Kiev.
In south and eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists have said they will go ahead with independence referendums on Sunday.
Vladimir Putin had called for the referendums on autonomy to be postponed to create the conditions for dialogue.
Activists remain in control of many official buildings across the south and east despite a military operation by Kiev to remove them. Dozens of people have been killed in the unrest.
Ukraine is preparing for elections on May 25 following the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February by pro-Western protesters.
Nazi Germany invaded the USSR – which included Ukraine – in June 1941 and advanced almost as far as Moscow before being driven back to Berlin in some of the fiercest fighting of the war.
Russia estimates that 26.6 million Soviet citizens were killed in the war, about 8.7 million of them members of the armed forces.
South Korea is staging its largest military parade in a decade, as President Park Geun-hye warns of a “very grave” threat from North Korea.
Cruise missiles and torpedoes were amongst the weapons displayed in the Armed Forces Day parade, reports said.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey also attended the event marking the 65th anniversary of South Korea’s armed forces.
They are currently in South Korea for security talks.
“The situation on the Korean peninsula… is very grave,” President Park Geun-hye said in a speech at the event.
South Korea is staging its largest military parade in a decade
“We have to build strong deterrence against North Korea until the North abandons its nuclear programme and makes the right choice for the people of North Korea and peace on the Korean Peninsula,” she added.
South Korea has displayed advanced weaponry during the parade, including the Hyunmoo 3 cruise missile, which Seoul says is capable of precision strikes on North Korean targets.
Around 11,000 soldiers and 120 aircraft were mobilized for the event.
Chuck Hagel, who is visiting South Korea for the first time since becoming defense secretary, has reiterated the US’s commitment to its military partnership with the South.
He and President Park Geun-hye are expected to discuss the eventual transfer of operational military control to Seoul.
Tensions between the two Koreas rose earlier this year, after North Korea’s third nuclear test in February.
Angered by expanded UN sanctions and annual US-South Korea military drills, Pyongyang threatened attacks on Japanese, South Korean and US military targets in the region.
Earlier this month, satellite imagery also suggested that North Korea had restarted a reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear facility, and tested a long-range rocket engine, a US think tank said.
North Korea has marked the 65th anniversary of its founding with a huge military parade.
The country held its second mass parade in little more than a month, with leader Kim Jong-un presiding over a display of goose-stepping paramilitary troops, marching bands and flower-waving civilians.
North Korea has marked the 65th anniversary of its founding with a huge military parade
At the start of the ceremony, tens of thousands of guards gathered in tight formation in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung Square, with hundreds of thousands more civilians in the background carrying brightly colored flowers in the pattern of a giant national flag.
Kim Jong-un’s arrival on the viewing platform with senior party and military officials was greeted with the usual thunderous applause and cries of Mansei.
Leading the parade were the Worker-Peasant Red Guard – a civilian militia with an estimated strength of more than three million active members.
France is preparing to celebrate its national day – known as Bastille Day – as investigations continue into the country’s worst rail disaster for 25 years.
Six people were killed when a train derailed at Bretigny-sur-Orge, south of Paris, at 17:14 on Friday.
The French train operator SNCF says the crash may have been caused by a fault on the tracks.
President Francois Hollande is expected to call for solidarity in a traditional Bastille Day broadcast on Sunday.
Francois Hollande will give a series of television interviews as workers continue to inspect the wreckage.
A large crane arrived at the site on Saturday evening to lift away the remains of carriages, and to find out whether there are still bodies lying beneath.
French media are reporting that it could still take a number of days to clear the derailed cars.
Transport routes were particularly busy at the time of the crash, as France began a long weekend for Bastille Day.
The July 14 celebrations, marking the start of the French Revolution in 1789, traditionally include an annual military parade on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
The July 14 celebrations, marking the start of the French Revolution in 1789, traditionally include an annual military parade on the Champs Elysees in Paris
A minute’s silence was held across France’s train network at noon on Saturday to commemorate the victims of the accident.
Those killed were four men and two women, aged between 19 and 82. Thirty people were injured, eight seriously.
SNCF said 385 passengers were on board when the train crashed and the station platforms were crowded.
The train had just left Paris on Friday afternoon and was heading for Limoges when six carriages derailed as the train passed through Bretigny-sur-Orge station at 85mph.
The train’s third and fourth carriages derailed first and the others followed. One mounted the station platform.
Eye witnesses described the train flying into the air and flipping over. Some said it was like scenes from a “war zone” with people running and screaming.
Giving its initial findings, SNCF management told reporters a metal bar connecting two rails had become detached at points 200 m outside the station.
“It moved into the centre of the switch and in this position it prevented the normal passage of the train’s wheels and it may have caused the derailment,” said Pierre Izard, SNCF’s general manager for infrastructure.
An SNCF inquiry is now expected to focus on how the piece of metal had become detached.
Separate investigations are also being conducted by judicial authorities and France’s BEA safety agency.
Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier has praised the driver of the train, saying his quick actions averted a worse accident.
Frederic Cuvillier said the driver had “absolutely extraordinary reflexes in that he sounded the alarm immediately, preventing a collision with another train coming in the opposite direction and which would have hit the derailing carriages within seconds”.
The worst railway accident in France in living memory took place at the Gare de Lyon in Paris in 1988, when two trains collided, killing 56 people.
North Korea has commemorated late leader Kim Jong-il’s 70th birthday with a military parade, pledges of loyalty to his son, Kim Jong-un, and thousands of red “kimjongilia” begonias.
Kim Jong-un, wearing a dark Mao suit and a solemn expression, bowed deeply before a large portrait of his smiling father. Hundreds of senior officials, military leaders and citizens followed to pay their respects.
Outside the palace, thousands of North Korean soldiers lined up in neat rows on a sunny but cold day, listening to speeches praising the Kim family. Later, Kim Jong-un and other officials watched as a parade of goose-stepping soldiers marched by followed by military jeeps and trucks carrying artillery guns and rocket launchers. Fireworks exploded, military music boomed and people waved artificial pink and red flowers.
Events on Wednesday included an international skating show and synchronized swimming. Both opened with mournful odes to Kim Jong-il and ended with a new song for his son: “We Will Defend General Kim Jong-un at the Risk of Our Lives.”
Kim Jong-il ruled for 17 years, a period that included a famine in the 1990s, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, and protracted tensions over the nation’s drive to build nuclear weapons. Food shortages persist in North Korea and relations with South Korea are at their lowest point in years. But since Kim Jong-il’s death, expressions of mourning and adoration have been common in Pyongyang.
North Korea has commemorated late leader Kim Jong-il’s 70th birthday with a military parade, pledges of loyalty to his son, Kim Jong-un, and thousands of red “kimjongilia” begonias
Composers have crafted new odes to Kim Jong-il, while sculptors have chiseled slogans honoring him into the sides of mountains. His birthday was renamed “Day of the Shining Star,” and this week he was accorded a new title: Generalissimo.
At Kim Il-sung Square, the main plaza in the capital, North Koreans bowed and laid flowers, including red “kimjongilia” begonias, at a portrait of Kim Jong-il hanging on the Grand People’s Study House. Among them was Paek Won-chol, who described himself as a “soldier and disciple” of Kim Jong-il.
“I will devote my all for the building of a powerful and prosperous nation” under Kim Jong-un, Paek Won-chol said.
Thursday’s parade could serve as closure to North Korea’s mourning as the country prepares for important nuclear talks next week with the United States, said John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University’s graduate school of international studies in South Korea.
Kim Jong-il’s death halted discussions between Pyongyang and Washington on much-needed food aid in exchange for nuclear disarmament. A US envoy will hold talks with North Korea on its nuclear programme in Beijing next week, the first such negotiations since Kim Jong-il’s death.
Newly elected French President Francois Hollande celebrated his first-ever National Day (known outside of France as Bastille Day) as head of state on Saturday with usual pomp, military parade and flight show.
At 10:00 a.m. local time, Francois Hollande presided the military parade down the Champs Elysees Avenue, which involved some 4,950 soldiers, 368 armored vehicles, 241 horses and 98 jets and helicopters.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault hailed a “national unity,” adding that the Bastille Day represented “an opportunity for the French to come together around the values of France.”
The president’s girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler, who had been keeping a low profile after tweeting her support for a rival of Francois Hollande’s ex-companion Segolene Royal in legislative elections last month, made her first public appearance on Saturday.
French President Francois Hollande celebrated his first-ever National Day
The two-hour parade was closed by a paratroop air show near the Concorde Square. After the parade, Francois Hollande was scheduled to join injured soldiers in Afghanistan to lunch.
Francois Hollande promised to withdraw French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, two years ahead of the alliance’s plan.
However, the president said France would continue to support Afghanistan in civilian fields including health, education, culture and agriculture and also assist its defense and interior ministries in training.
“This July 14th is the last one of our combat units in Kapisa to pass in Afghanistan. Two thousand soldiers will return to their homes at the end of the year,” the president said when addressing a group of ministers and military figures on the eve of the National Day.
“It is an act of sovereignty that France has posed freely. I took this decision, in harmony with our allies, and with the agreement of the Afghan authorities,” he noted.
Francois Hollande also unveiled a new white paper on defense and national security, the fourth document of its kind for the country, which aims to “define our defense strategy and capabilities of our forces for the next 15 years,” he said.
“The objective is to ensure the long term performance, efficiency and balance of our forces,” he stressed.
In a televised interview later in the afternoon, the head of state will review his first two months of presidency, which has been overshadowed by eurozone crisis and jumping unemployment rate following a wave of job cuts in the country’s leading companies.
Wet summer weather is unlikely to dampen the enthusiasm of Parisians and visitors who turned out in large numbers to witness the annual celebration.
Gardens of the Elysee Palace will be open to visitors throughout the afternoon. Huge crowds are expected to enjoy fireworks display centered on the Eiffel Tower and across the country.
Bastille Day marks July 14, 1789, when French citizens stormed the Bastille prison in Paris, which helped spark the French Revolution.