President Vladimir Putin said the Russian navy will get 40 new ships this year, as he attended a naval parade in St Petersburg on Sunday marking the country’s Navy Day.

The parade in the port city and the nearby town of Kronshtadt featured 200 ships and vessels and over 4,000 troops and aimed to ‘demonstrate the growing power of our navy,’ Putin said on Friday.

He said 40 ships of different classes will enter service this year, and that the Russian navy will be equipped with hypersonic weapons to boost its combat capabilities.

Opening the parade, he said that ‘six more vessels for the far-sea zone were laid down at Russia‘s three leading shipyards’ in the past few days.

The Kremlin has made military modernization its top priority amid tensions with the West that followed Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Similar parades marking Russia’s Navy Day on Sunday took place in the Far Eastern cities of Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsk, Sevastopol in the annexed Crimea, the seaport towns of Severomorsk and Baltiysk, Kaspirsk in the south of Russia and the port city of Tartus in Syria.

Earlier this week Putin attended a ceremony of keel-laying of new warships in Crimea and pledged to continue an ambitious program of building new warships, saying that Russia needs a strong navy to defend its interests and ‘help maintain a strategic balance and global stability.’  

Traditionally celebrated on the last Sunday of July, the Navy Day is a national holiday in the Russian Federation that honours the sailors in units of the Russian Navy and its specialised arms.  

Vladimir Putin and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu were photographed on board a Raptor boat in the Kronstadt roadstead ahead of inspecting warships participating in the military parade.  

Putin did not specify when Russia would receive new hypersonic weapons, but suggested that day was drawing closer.

‘The widespread deployment of advanced digital technologies that have no equals in the world, including hypersonic strike systems and underwater drones, will give the fleet unique advantages and increased combat capabilities,’ Putin said.

In a separate statement released via Russian news agencies, the defence ministry said testing of the Belgorod, the first submarine capable of carrying the Poseidon drones, was underway and testing of the weapons systems was nearing completion.

‘Work is being successfully completed to create modern weapons systems for the Navy,’ it was cited as saying.

Putin last year threatened to deploy hypersonic missiles on ships and submarines that could lurk outside U.S. territorial waters if the United States moved to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

Washington has not deployed such missiles in Europe, but Moscow is worried it might.

Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, also attended the event in a traditional navy outfit. 

Putin also gave a speech at the event where hundreds of soldiers sailed in small missile ships to celebrate the day. 

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday: ‘Overall, the festivities will involve about 200 warships of various classes, more than 100 items of combat hardware, up to 80 aircraft and about 15,000 personnel.’  

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