Russia marks Victory Day with vast parade
Moscow: Tens of thousands of granite-faced soldiers marched in lockstep across Red Square on Monday in Russia`s annual Victory Day display of military might, while President Dmitry Medvedev said the country is committed to peace and global stability.
The parade, marking the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II, is the centrepiece of Russia`s most solemn secular holiday, both commemorating the Soviet Union`s enormous sacrifices in the war and asserting the potency of its modern military.
The 20,000 troops who strode in precision formation through the vast square outside the Kremlin were followed by more than 100 pieces of mobile military hardware, from armoured personnel carriers to lumbering Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile launchers. It concluded with a squadron of helicopters carrying flags over the square but, unusually for recent years, did not include warplanes.
Although Russian armed forces suffered from severe funding shortages and morale problems in the early years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the parade put forth the image of a spit-and-polish and vigorous military, with an emphasis on discipline and precision. The parade announcer even praised the "maximal synchronisation" with which the cars carrying Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and Moscow Military District commander Colonel-General Valery Gerasimov approached each other in the centre of the square.
Medvedev told the crowd, which included many war veterans festooned with medals and ribbons, that restoring the military would continue.
"The state will continue to do everything to guarantee the dignity of military service to actively upgrade the armed forces so that the troops will have the most modern equipment," said.
"Today Russia firmly upholds the principles of peaceful cooperation, consistently advocates for a security system and contributes to the overall effort to maintain global stability in the world," he said in the speech from a tribune set up in front of the Lenin Mausoleum.
The mausoleum, the focal point of the square, was hidden behind an elaborate scrim painted to mark the holiday, reflecting the symbolic delicacy of commemorating a victory achieved by the Soviet regime that is now largely discredited. Some of the marching military units carried period flags bearing the Communist hammer-and-sickle emblem.
Last year`s Victory Day period was marked by repeated complaints from Medvedev and other officials that some countries denigrate the Soviet Union`s contribution in WWII, in which some 26 million Soviets died, according to some estimates.
But Medvedev made no reference to the issue this year and made of a point of noting the efforts of the other Allies.
"Now, new generations are reinforcing the traditions of friendship and cooperation with those nations who together with us celebrate victory. And I sincerely congratulate the veterans of all countries," he said.
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