Russia: Moscow Displays Heavy Weapons In Victory Day Parade
Missile carriers rumbled across Moscow's Red Square and war planes roared overhead as Russia celebrated the 63rd anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
Brass bands and some 8,000 soldiers clad in newly designed uniforms goose-stepped across the square as Russia's leaders watched from a platform in front of Lenin's mausoleum. Soldiers chanted "hurrah" as Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov reviewed the troops from a silver open-top limousine.
The annual Victory Day parade is a key holiday in Russia -- a time not only to remember the almost 27 million Soviets killed during World War II, but also to show off the country's military might.
This year's parade was the biggest military extravaganza seen on Red Square since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin, before stepping down as Russian president, had ordered the army to revive the Soviet tradition of displaying heavy weaponry such as tanks and missiles.
His successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who was sworn in as Kremlin leader on May 7, shook hands with veterans under bright sunshine. His voice booming across Red Square, he warned against "irresponsible ambitions" that could spark wars against entire continents. His mentor Putin, who now serves as prime minister, looked on from behind him.
"We must take extremely seriously any attempts to sow racial or religious hatred, to fan ideological terror and extremism with the intention of meddling in the affairs of other countries, or attempts to redraw borders," he said.
Putin's assertive policies have set Russia at loggerheads with NATO countries and some of its post-Soviet neighbors such as Georgia, where tensions are simmering due to Moscow's support of its two separatist regions.
This year's enhanced Victory Day parade also aims at forging Russian unity and filling the ideological vacuum left by the Soviet collapse. A military band played the Soviet-era national anthem, whose tune was restored by Putin in 2000 with changed words.
Separate military parades were held across the country and broadcast on national television, alongside popular World War II films.
Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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