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Russia Holds First Red Square Military Parade Since Soviet Collapse

Troops, tanks, warplanes and missiles paraded across Red Square in Moscow Friday for the first time since the Soviet collapse. The display came as Russia celebrated its May 9 Victory Day over Nazi Germany. VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports the show of force was intended as a signal of renewed Russian military strength.

Troops shouted "hurrah" to the accompaniment of martial music at Moscow's Red Square commemoration of the Nazi defeat 63 years ago. Other cities throughout Russia and in other former Soviet republics also held parades to honor the many millions who died in the war and also the veterans who brought it to a successful conclusion.

Russia's new President Dmitri Medvedev told participants in Moscow that the histories of the World Wars serve as warnings that armed conflicts are not born in and of themselves, but are ignited by those whose irresponsible ambitions override the interests of entire nations and continents.

Mr. Medvedev says there must be serious concern over attempts to sow racial or religious animosity or to inflame the ideology of terror and extremism with the intention of interfering in the affairs of other states, particularly with the intention of re-drawing borders.

The Kremlin leader's statement comes amid Russian opposition to Kosovo's recent declaration of independence from Serbia, which many European countries and the United States have recognized.

Moscow's hour-long Victory Day parade featured about 8000 participants.

It began with a marching band of cadets and goose-stepping units of Russia's various armed forces. They were followed by progressively larger transport and combat vehicles, culminating with huge missiles and aircraft flybys.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov told VOA the military parade is an old Russian, Soviet and popular tradition, adding, however, that much of the weaponry on display was also old.

Zyuganov says he knows all of the equipment well, having served three tours in the army. He refers to the hardware as the Soviet Union's gift to modern Russia, adding there was very little new technology on display.

Armaments built by Russia since the Soviet collapse included the Topol-M nuclear missile and the SS-26 missile. But most of the tanks and military aircraft featured in the parade, including the giant Mria transport plane and the TU-160 strategic bomber, were indeed of Soviet vintage.

Nonetheless, the display impressed many of Russia's aging World War II veterans.

"Outstanding! Outstanding," says First Ukrainian Front veteran Nikolai Dvornikov about his impression of the parade.

Dvornikov says Russians had a feeling their country looked pale, but Friday's parade in Moscow showcased the country's strength, ability to defend itself, and to safeguard peace on earth.

The Russian air force was ordered to make sure no clouds would rain on the Red Square parade. Military planes carried out the assignment before the event with cloud seeding that apparently succeeded. Skies were mostly sunny.