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Russia celebrates WW2 victory with Soviet-style parade PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 10 May 2008

REUTERS, Moscow - Warplanes screamed over Red Square and missile launchers rumbled past ranks of soldiers on Friday when Russia celebrated victory over Nazi Germany with a show of military might not seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The annual May parade, which remembers the almost 27 million Soviets who perished in World War Two, is also intended to show Russia's revival and a military that the Kremlin says is still a force to be reckoned with.

Vladimir Putin, before stepping down as president, ordered generals to revive the Soviet-era tradition of driving tanks, howitzers and missile launchers over Red Square as Russia's top brass watch from a platform in front of Lenin's mausoleum.

President Dmitry Medvedev, sworn in as Kremlin leader this week, shook hands with veterans at the parade's opening.

"I congratulate you from my very heart with the day of the great victory, with a celebration which always was and will remain the most national and sacred and which has become for ever a symbol of our national unity," Medvedev said.

"The history of world wars warns that military conflicts are not born on their own -- they are set alight by those whose irresponsible ambitions are put above the interests of whole countries and entire continents, the interests of millions of people," Medvedev said as Putin looked on from behind him.

"We must do everything to make sure that such tragedies are not repeated," he said. Putin did not give a speech.

RUSSIAN UNITY

The Kremlin has sought to foster memories of the World War Two, known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, as a way to forge Russian unity after the upheavals and rancor which followed the fall of the Soviet Union.

Politicians and generals are keen to show results of sharply rising military spending at home and to send a message overseas about Russia's renewed power.

Russia has not displayed heavy weaponry at the parade in Red Square since 1990, the year before the Soviet Union's collapse.

"Good day comrades... I congratulate you with the 63rd annual celebration of victory in the Great Patriotic War," Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov barked at troops from a silver open-top Zil limousine.

Troops answered in unison with "Hooray, hooray, hooray," which echoed across Red Squared.

At least 110 pieces of military hardware are taking part in the May 9 parade this year, including the Topol and the Iskander M, Russia's most modern missile launchers.

Generals shouted orders at the troops, representing different branches of Russia's one million-strong armed forces as they marched stiffly past a viewing stand to martial music from a brass band, their heads all turned to the right to face the reviewing officers.

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