European countries are marking the 75th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany today – amidst a new war on the continent against coronavirus.
Parades and public celebrations have been scaled back or cancelled altogether on a continent that has borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, with 1.6million cases and more than 150,000 deaths reported there.
French President Emmanuel Macron led the celebrations in Paris by laying a wreath in front of a statue of General Charles de Gaulle before making his way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier underneath the Arc du Triomphe.
Accompanied by former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, alongside military leaders and other politicians who kept their distance from each-other, he listened to an acapella version of La Marseillaise before laying a tricolore wreath.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also due to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony in Berlin today – after the city’s residents were given an unprecedented public holiday to mark the occasion.
FRANCE: Emmanuel Macron led a toned-down ceremony marking VE-Day in Paris on Friday, first by laying a wreath at a statue of General Charles de Gaulle (pictured) and then another at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at the Arc du Triomphe
Macron was accompanied by former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande along with other politicians and military figures during the ceremonies, after large parades were cancelled
Macron had urged the French public to put up flags in their windows to mark the day – when Nazi Germany officially surrendered to the Allies – but told people not to attend public celebrations (pictured, an almost-deserted Paris)
GERMANY: Russian orthodox priests gather at a Soviet war memorial in a park in Berlin, Germany, during a scaled-back ceremony to mark VE Day, or 75 years since the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allies
BELGIUM: Two people walk among the headstones of some 8,000 American troops who died fighting in Europe at Belgium’s Henri Chapelle World War II cemetery on VE Day
FRANCE: An American flag is positioned next to the French tricolore on a bullet-damaged statue in the village of Bennwhir, eastern France, which was liberated by the US Army in December 1944
RUSSIA: A worker washes a monument to Russian soldiers killed fighting in the Second World War in Vladivostok, far eastern Russia, on VE Day. Russia traditionally marks the victory a day later, on May 9
Germany does not typically celebrate May 8 – which marks the unconditional surrender of Hitler’s forces – but this year decided on a public holiday in Berlin to mark the country’s liberation from Nazism and return to democracy.
Merkel will join President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in laying wreaths at Neue Wache – the country’s main memorial to the victims of war and dictatorship, followed by a speech by the president.
Macron had earlier urged the French public not to attend public celebrations but instead to put up flags and decorate their windows and balconies in tribute instead.
Large-scale parades across Europe have been scrapped, drastically downsized or moved online, as the continent grapples with its biggest crisis since World War II – this time an invisible enemy that has sickened more than 3.7 million worldwide.
With veterans already at an advanced age, organisers of marches had deemed it too risky for them to attend events even in countries which have begun to ease lockdown measures.
Russia had originally planned a huge military display on its May 9 Victory Day, with world leaders including France’s President Emmanuel Macron on the guest list.
But now only a flypast will take place over the Red Square, as the country becomes Europe’s new hotspot of coronavirus infections.
Veterans hold the French national flag as they take part in the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of World War II victory in Europe at the Monument to the Dead in the French Riviera city of Nice
Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi delivers a speech during the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of World War II victory in Europe at the Monument to the Dead
Two women hold carnations before laying them at the Soviet war memorial in Berlin, which commemorates thousands of Red Army troops who were killed liberating the city from the Nazis in 1945
Graves of French soldiers killed during the Second World War are seen at a military cemetery in Sigolshiem, eastern France
Russia typically sees one of the largest parades in Europe on Victory Day – its own day of celebration on May 9 – but that has been postponed due to coronavirus (pictured, a worker washes a memorial in Vladivostok)
President Vladimir Putin will lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorial, before making a TV address which will not only touch on the war, but is also expected to chart out the country’s next steps on battling the virus.
Elsewhere, COVID-19 continues to make its presence felt.
In the US, President Donald Trump and his wife Melania will join a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War II memorial in Washington, DC.
The US Department of Defense will hold an online commemoration thank WWII veterans that will be streamed on Facebook and Twitter.
In the Czech Republic, where a lockdown has been completely lifted, politicians will be arriving at 10-minute intervals to lay wreaths on Prague’s Vitkov Hill, to minimise contact.
Ceremonies across France have been drastically scaled down, although Macron will still be attending an event on the Champs-Elysees.
In Britain, street parades by veterans have been cancelled.
Queen Elizabeth II will make a televised address to the nation at 9:00 pm (2000 GMT), the same time that her father, king George VI, gave a radio address marking VE day in 1945.
Her son and heir, Prince Charles, will also read an extract from the king’s diary from the day, which covers the royal family’s appearances on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as massive crowds celebrated in the streets below.
That evening, the future queen – then known as Princess Elizabeth – and her sister Margaret were given permission to leave the palace and join the festivities.