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Anti-Hitler Coalition Troops March On Red Square To Mark V-Day

For the first time in history, troops from World War II's western allies matched steps with the Russians on the historic Red Square, marching together to mark the 65th anniversary of their victory over Nazi
PTI May 09, 2010 16:24 IST
PTI

For the first time in history, troops from World War II's western allies matched steps with the Russians on the historic Red Square, marching together to mark the 65th anniversary of their victory over Nazi Germany.

Soldiers from Britain, France, Poland and the US joined the 10,500 Russian troops and military contingents of the former Soviet republics at the V-Day parade on the Red Square, Russia's biggest military display since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"The presence of foreign troops in Red Square - once the heart of the Soviet Union - was a highly symbolic gesture, demonstrating how far the rivalry of the Cold War has been pushed aside," BBC said in its V-Day report for the Russian capital.

Britain was represented by 76 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, wearing their trademark bright red tunics and tall bearskin caps, as troops from the four NATO countries marched on the Red Square for the first time.

France was represented at the parade by the Normandie- Niemen squadron raised in Russia during the war, and Poland was represented by 75 soldiers and officers of tri-services guard of honour.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a speech that the lessons of World War II "urge us to show solidarity".

"Peace is still fragile and it is our duty to remember that wars do not start in an instant... it is only together that we shall be able to counter modern threats".

The US was represented by a detachment from the 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment which linked up with the Soviet troops on the Elbe River in Germany in 1945.

This was the largest display of military might by Russia since the Soviet collapse in 1991.

A total of 161 tanks and missiles rolled through the Red Square and 127 aircraft presented an impressive fly-past.

For the first time it displayed six types of weapon systems, including the Pantsir-S1 and Buratino air-defence systems, the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile, the Yak-130 trainer jet and the Mi-28 and Ka-52 helicopters.

The aircraft included Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers and supersonic Tu-160 Blackjacks, Tu-22M3 Backfire long-range bombers and Il-78 aerial tankers, which flew straight to the Red Square from various airbases across the country.

 The 72-minute parade was watched by a galaxy of about 30 foreign leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Several foreign diplomats present on the Red Square said it was significant that former allied forces that defeated the Nazis during WWII are together on the 65th anniversary of the ending of the war.

About 55 million people had died during the Second World War, of which almost 27 million were citizens of former Soviet Union, mainly Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian President Silvio Berlusconi had cancelled their visits due to EU currency crisis.

The Western allies mark Victory in Europe Day each year on May 8, but Russia celebrates Victory Day on May 9 as the German surrender happened late in the night in Berlin when it was already May 9 in Moscow.

A section of Russians had reacted negatively to the proposal of a joint parade, objecting to the presence of NATO soldiers on the historic Red Square.

"Sixty five years ago, Nazism was defeated and a machine that was exterminating whole peoples was halted," Medvedev said.

"There was blood and tears. There was one choice -- either victory or to become slaves. The war made us a strong nation," he said. PTI