ASTANA – On May 8 and 9, Kazakhstan commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, with President Nursultan Nazarbayev attending events in Astana and Moscow.
In the Russian capital, Nazarbayev was among the key guests at the grand Victory Day Parade. More than 16,000 soldiers marched across the cobblestones of Red Square, saluting the parade’s host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, as they passed. They were followed by hundreds of armoured vehicles – including Russia’s newly unveiled Armata battle tanks and fighting vehicles – as well as at least three intercontinental ballistic missiles. The sky over Moscow saw more than 140 flybys performed by military jets and helicopters.
Cadets from the Almaty-based Military Institute of Land Forces represented Kazakhstan at the parade, which also included marching units from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as China, India, Mongolia and Serbia.
More than 2,300 people, including veterans from Kazakhstan and other foreign countries, were invited to watch the parade on Red Square. Around 30 heads of states, governments and international organisations attended the celebrations in Moscow. Nazarbayev was invited to take a seat on the left of the Russian leader, while Chinese President Xi Jinping sat on his right.
The leaders also jointly laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden near the Kremlin wall.
The events in Moscow also provided a good platform for holding a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines, allowing for brief discussions of issues on bilateral and international agendas. According to Akorda, the ranks of those whom Nazarbayev met with separately included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as well as presidents of Azerbaijan, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Mongolia, Serbia, South Africa, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
President Nazarbayev had previously attended the military parade in Astana on May 7, following which he participated in opening a new monument to Major General Ivan Panfilov. The WWII hero commanded the 316th Rifle Division, which was drafted from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and became famous for their heroism in the Battle of Moscow. Panfilov himself was killed in that battle on Nov. 16, 1941, but was fondly remembered by his soldiers and fellow officers.
After laying flowers at the 2.5-metre bronze monument, Nazarbayev talked to a group of World War II veterans who had been invited to the event. Congratulating them on the symbolic anniversary, the President assured the veterans that the authorities would continue taking the utmost care of their well-being.
“Not only during the holidays but at all times will we honour veterans, as you deserve that. The current generation’s response to your deeds is their work to create a stable, independent and harmonious Kazakhstan [so that] you have every reason to believe that your deeds at war and the blood spilled were not in vain,” Nazarbayev said, according to an Akorda press release.
The President also met with veterans and Astana residents on May 8 at the ceremony of laying flowers to the monument of Fatherland Defenders, a traditional place to pay tribute to the victims of World War II. More than 10,000 people attended the event there and, as part of the ceremony, observed a minute of silence to remember those fallen in military conflicts.
Commemorative events were held in virtually every town and village in Kazakhstan on May 9, as the nation celebrated its contribution to the victory over Nazism, recalling the roughly 600,000 citizens of Kazakhstan who perished in that war and honouring the living veterans, of which around 5,000 reportedly remain in Kazakhstan.
Thousands across Kazakhstan also marched on city streets holding the enlarged photographs of their family members who fought in the war as part of what came to be known as the “Immortal Regiment” commemorative action. The action was originally launched in Tomsk, Russia, in 2012, and this year an estimated 500,000 people walked in the centre of Moscow towards Red Square.