Red Army victory ceremony
Red Army veteran prepares to lay wreath at Netanya ceremony for 69th anniversary of victory over Nazis, May 8, 2014. Photo by Reuters
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Reuters
Netanyahu paying tribute at memorial for Red Army soldiers killed in World War II, May 8, 2014. Photo by Reuters

Organizers of Thursday's ceremony marking the Red Army's World War II victory over the Nazis said it was the only one held outside the former Soviet Union that attracted national leaders. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the event at the Victory Monument in Netanya, and cabinet ministers and MKs were due to take part as well.

But of course the true guests of honor were the Red Army veterans from World War II, dressed in their old uniforms studded with medals and ribbons, somber as they paid tribute to their fallen comrades. An estimated 9 million to 14 million Soviet soldiers were killed in the war, along with some 15 million Soviet civilians.

The 69th anniversary of the victory, organized by the Russian Jewish Congress, featured a concert by "Russian People's Artist" rocker Andrei Makarevich, no kid himself anymore at 60. The Israel Defense Forces orchestra also performed.

The veterans were to visit the armory museum in Latrun, under the guidance of Ion Degen, an immigrant from the 1970s described by the organizers as both a legendary World War II tank crewman and a poet.