Ahead of crucial talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday attended a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square marking the 73rd anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
Netanyahu was one of two foreign leaders who attended the event, during which the Russian army also showcased military equipment used to defend the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. The other foreign leader present was Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.
Netanyahu headed to Moscow early Wednesday morning for urgent talks with the Kremlin about Iran’s attempt to establish itself militarily in Syria. Russia is a staunch ally of both Tehran and Damascus, and has condemned Israeli airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian targets.
“The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so,” Netanyahu said as he boarded his plane to Moscow. “In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination between the Russian military and the IDF.”
On Tuesday evening, the Israeli army urged Golan residents to ready bomb shelters and put its air defenses on high alert, after having detected “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria.”
The army’s announcement followed multiple warnings by Israeli defense officials of a potential Iranian missile strike on northern Israel and came just before US President Donald Trump announced that the United States was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and imposing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
At about the same time, Israel reportedly bombed a military site linked to Iranian fighters south of Damascus, reportedly killing pro-Iranian fighters in an area previously identified as the site of a suspected Iranian military base.
On Wednesday morning, Netanyahu sat in the front row, close to Putin, and watched an infantry march, a procession of armored vehicles and an air force flyby consisting of more than 70 aircraft.
Weapons systems presented during the parade included the Pantsir-S1 air defense system, which is said to have intercepted many of the missiles during the US, French and UK April 14 attacks on Syrian regime targets, which came in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons on civilians.
The advanced S-400 missile defense system was also paraded, as were the Buk-M2 anti-aircraft and Tor-M2 air defense missile systems, which are currently deployed in Syria.
After the parade, Netanyahu and Putin participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Red Square. The two leaders are then set to take part in the so-called “Immortal Regiment” marches in honor of those who fought the Nazis.
Later that day, the two leaders will meet at the Kremlin for bilateral talks, and Putin will then host the Israeli delegation for dinner.
Israel this year for the first time marked VE Day, stipulated by a law the Knesset passed last year. According to the legislation, Education Minister Naftali Bennett has instructed schools nationwide to teach about the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. Furthermore, the Knesset and local and national government institutions have been asked to hold commemorative events.
In a joint statement, the ambassadors to Israel of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan congratulated the Israeli people on the occasion, saying that the law the Knesset passed in July — with 53 yes votes and zero no votes — “clearly demonstrates the recognition of the decisive role of the Red Army of the multinational Soviet Union in the liberation of Europe from the unprecedented evil, and the Jews – from annihilation,” the statement read.
Ambassadors of Russia, Belarus , Kazakhstan : We sincerely congratulate you on the 73rd anniversary of the Victory over…
“Moreover, it is an unambiguous signal to those who falsify historical facts, whitewash Nazi butchers, and tar the victims and liberators for opportunistic political reasons,” the statement went on. “It is obvious that the assessment of that war to a large extent determines the worldview of entire states, the basis for their future, as well as attitude towards other nations.”
The three ambassadors said that the memory of the victory over Nazi Germany “has always been and will continue to be a uniting factor, a solid historical value contributing to cementing ties between Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Israel, as well as building productive interstate relations and developing cooperation in the international arena.”