This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. The Soviet Union (made up of 15 republics) and its allies defeated Nazi Germany in May 1945 after a long, bitter conflict. More than 20 million Soviet citizens were killed in the war.

Reuters photographers took portraits of Soviet army veterans, mostly now in their 80s and 90s. They photographed one veteran in each of the 15 former Soviet republics, and they are presented in this gallery alongside archive pictures of them in uniform during the war.

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Abla Begaliyev, 91, poses in Arashan and at home in Kyrgyzstan. Begaliyev served in the border guard cavalry from February 1942 until April 1947. Originally from Kyrgyzstan, he fought on the Ukrainian front and relocated to the border with Afghanistan at the end of World War Two.Vladimir Pirogov/Reuters

Reuters photographer Grigory Dukor explains: "We decided to use that opportunity to show Red Army veterans from 15 former republics and in the process give a snapshot of the different habits, traditions, nationalities and countries which made up the Soviet Union until its break-up in 1991.

"We found several veterans who were happy to take part. However due to their age not everyone was in the best shape physically. As for the veterans we did find and who were well enough to take part, they were shy to start with and some of them took a bit of persuading to have their images captured. 'Why a photograph of me?' they asked."

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Valentyna Kucinich, 94, poses in Independence Square in Kiev and at home in Ukraine. Kucinich served as a nurse in a tank regiment from December 1941 until April 1946. Originally from Ukraine, the end of World War Two found her in Germany.Gleb Garanich/Reuters
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Fricis Ceplis, 98, poses in Riga and at home in Latvia. Ceplis served in the infantry of the Soviet Union army from March 1942 until May 1945.Ints Kalnins/Reuters
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Kustavlet Tasybayev, 90, poses against the backdrop of mountains on the outskirts of the town of Talgar and at home in Kazakhstan. Tasybayev served in the infantry of the Soviet Union army from November 1943 until October 1950. Originally from Kazakhstan, the end of World War Two found him in Port Arthur, China (now Lüshunkou District).Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

Dukor continues: "Many of the veterans didn't want to talk in too much detail about their experiences during the war.

"Boris Runov didn't want to be photographed in Red Square wearing his medals. Only when photographer Sergei Karpukhin explained to him that he would be the only veteran from Russia did he agree.

"When Sergei arrived with Mr Runov in Moscow's Red Square, it was closed to all visitors. Sergei explained to the federal security guards why they were there. The security people looked at the veteran decorated with military honours and they let them walk in and have his photos taken.

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Boris Runov, 89, poses in Red Square and at home in Moscow. He served in the sapper company of the Soviet Union army from 1943 until 1945. Red Square was closed to the public at the time of this photo. When security personnel saw Runov's medals honouring his part in the war, they gave him access and let the photo be taken.Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
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Kholik Khojayev, 91, poses in front of the Gissarskaya fortress outside Dushanbe and at home in Tajikistan. Khojayev served in the infantry of the Soviet Union army from October 1942 until January 1946. The end of World War Two found him in Hungary.Nozim Kalandarov/Reuters
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Uzokboy Akhrayev, 90, poses in Khast Imam square in Tashkent and at home in Uzbekistan. Akhrayev served in the artillery of the Soviet Union army from January 1943 until May 1950. Originally from Uzbekistan, the end of World War Two found him in Berlin.Valery Kharitonov/Reuters
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Julius Deksnis, 88, poses in Vilnius and at home in Lithuania. Deksnis served in the infantry of the Soviet Union army from August 1944 until May 1945. Originally from Lithuania the end of World War Two found him in Latvia.Ints Kalnins/Reuters
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Guwanch Myratlyev, 89, poses in front of the Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque in Ashgabat and at home in Turkmenistan. Myratlyev served as a sailor in the Baltic fleet of the Soviet Union forces from February 1944 until 1950. Originally from Turkmenistan, the end of World War Two found him in the German town of Koenigsberg.Aman Mehinli/Reuters
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Georgy Parul, 89, poses in Chisinau and at home in Moldova. Parul served in an infantry unit of the Soviet Union army from December 1943 until May 1945. The end of World War Two found him in Burgas, Bulgaria.Valery Korchmar/Reuters
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Rozalia Abgaryan, 91, poses in front of a cathedral in Echmiadzin and at home in Armenia. Abgaryan served in an infantry unit of the Soviet Union army from October 1941 until December 1945. Originally from Armenia, the end of World War Two found her in Prague.David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters
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Giorgi Gozalishvili, 88, poses in Tbilisi and at home in Georgia. Gozalishvili served in an infantry unit of the Soviet Union army from April 1944 until April 1946. Originally from Georgia, the end of World War Two found him in Germany.David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters
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Allakhverdi Aliyev, 102, poses for a picture in front of the Maiden Tower in Baku and at home in Azerbaijan. Aliyev served in an infantry unit of the Soviet Union army from November 1941 until 1944. Originally from Azerbaijan, the end of World War Two found him in a hospital in Warsaw, Poland.Elmar Mustafazadeh/Reuters
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Karl Rammus, 92, poses in Tallinn and at home in Estonia. Rammus served in an infantry reconnaissance company of the Soviet Union army from August 1942 until May 1945. Originally from Estonia, the end of World War Two found him in Latvia.Ints Kalnins/Reuters
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Nikolay Mazanik, 92, poses in Victory square in Minsk and at home in Belarus. Mazanik started the war as a commander of a rifle platoon in an infantry company of the Soviet Union army from June 1941 until May 1945. Originally from Belarus, the end of World War Two found him in the city of Koenigsberg, Germany.Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

Another Reuters photographer, Maxim Zmeyev, took portraits of five former Red Army soldiers wearing historical uniforms and representing five different branches of the Soviet armed forces who fought against Nazi Germany in World War Two.

Russia will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war with a huge Victory Day parade in Moscow on Saturday 9 May.

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Valentin Barmin, 88, poses at the so-called 28 Panfilov Heroes Memorial Park in Moscow region, Russia. Barmin, a Red Army infantry soldier, served as a medical troop commander at the 2nd and 3rd Belarussian fronts.Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters
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Boris Davydov, 87, poses in front of a BK-433 Soviet military guard vessel, produced in 1942, at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow. Davydov, a Soviet navy serviceman, served on a minehunting ship in the Black Sea fleet.Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters
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Retired Lieutenant General Vitaly Rybalka, 92, poses in front of a Yak-9 fighter Soviet aircraft at the Central Air Force Museum in Moscow region, Russia. Rybalka, a Soviet military pilot and then air squadron commander, served at the Western, 1st and 2nd Ukrainian fronts.Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters
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Nikolai Melnikov, 92, poses in front of the Monument to Eleven Sappers near Volokolamsk in Moscow region, Russia. Melnikov, a Red Army junior sergeant, served as a sapper and military engineer at the South and Ukrainian fronts, took part in the Battle of Stalingrad, and in the liberation of Poland and Germany.Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters
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Foma Kryuchkov, 92, poses in front of a T-34 Soviet-made tank in Moscow region, Russia. Kryuchkov, retired colonel, served as a mechanic and tank driver and then commander of a tank squadron at the Volkhov, 2nd Baltic and Leningrad fronts.Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters