MOSCOW — A former Russian paratrooper is haunted by the memory of comrades being wiped out by the Nazis. Another veteran recalls the terror of being captured by SS troops after his plane was shot down. A former radio operator relives the tragedy of families abandoning their prized possessions in the exodus from Crimea after the German invasion.
As Russia celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe in World War II, veterans are filled with a mixture of pride and sadness as they salute their achievements while remembering the horrific suffering of fellow soldiers and ordinary Russians.
Their mood contrasts with the Kremlin's campaign to promote patriotic fervor that is as much about re-establishing Russia's place is the world and justifying aggression in Ukraine as about honoring Russians who fought the Nazis.
More than 26 million Soviet citizens were killed in the war, 8 million of them troops.
In a Moscow awash with patriotic billboards, here are portraits of grizzled Russian veterans.