Schroeder joins Putin forRussian WWII ceremonies

9th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

9 May 2005, MOSCOW - Medal-laden war veterans rubbed shoulders with more than 50 world leaders, including German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, on Moscow's Red Square on Monday at a major commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

9 May 2005

MOSCOW - Medal-laden war veterans rubbed shoulders with more than 50 world leaders, including German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, on Moscow's Red Square on Monday at a major commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

The guests joined Russian President Vladimir Putin on a podium by the Kremlin wall to watch an hour-long parade flagged off by troops bearing the actual hammer and sickle banner that was raised over the Reichstag building in Berlin 60 years ago.

Some 2,500 former combatants crossed the square in World War Two replica trucks with 7,000 Russian soldiers marching on foot in period-style uniforms.

Modern fighter jets also made fly-by smoke salutes in sunny skies after chemicals were used to disperse rainclouds.

"Sixty years have passed but every 9 May we shall mourn the dead, and recall this war," Putin said. "This war that calls upon us and binds us to a great responsibility, forces us to acknowledge how close to the brink of a bottomless abyss the world stood ... It is a shared victory, we never divide it into 'ours' and 'theirs', and we shall always remember our allies."

The main task facing the world today was fighting terrorism and creating a world order founded on security and justice, Putin said, citing Russia's post-war reconciliation with Germany as a beacon of cooperation.

Representing the other main wartime Allied powers were US President George W. Bush, French President Jacques Chirac and British cabinet member John Prescott, who stood in for Prime Minister Tony Blair.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also attended.

The parade was followed by a flower-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by Red Square and a reception in the Kremlin. Chancellor Schroeder later also visited a cemetery in Moscow where the remains of hundreds of German soldiers are buried.

During the day foreign leaders met with old soldiers from both sides to talk about their war experiences.

Hundreds more veterans gathered at Moscow's Gorky Park to mingle and raise vodka toasts to fallen comrades on a day marked by enormous pride and sorrow.

"The memories are difficult," said 83-year-old Yekaterina Georgievna, a former combatant with eight medals pinned to her coat. "I helped liberate Leningrad but it was horrific."

Pavel Abramov, 79, found two fellow soldiers from the 46th Army with which he fought his way through Moldova as a teenager.

"There aren't many of us left now and everything aches these days - but we are soldiers and we won't let a few twinges get in our way," he said as they celebrated.

At a Kremlin ceremony Putin also conferred medals of honour on a number of his guests who were active during the conflict.

Recipients included former Romanian King Michail I, the last surviving head of state from 1945.

The presidents of Albania, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and former Polish leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski were also decorated.

Meanwhile, security was tight along routes and sites visited by the VIPs as thousands of soldiers and policemen deployed for the anniversary events amid terrorism concerns. Two 9 May bomb attacks in 2002 and 2004 killed dozens of people in the North Caucasus.

Many other cities and towns in Russia and the former Soviet republics also marked the occasion, which is expected to be the last time so many participants of the conflict gather together. Large firework displays were scheduled for the evening.

The festivities were still continuing as the state guests began leaving the capital.

President Bush with his wife Laura was bound for the Georgian capital Tbilisi on the fourth leg of his European tour after Latvia, the Netherlands and Russia.

Many of the visiting politicians took the opportunity to hold meetings with each other and with the Russian leader. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke with representatives of the other sponsors of the Middle East peace process, the United States, Russia and the European Union.

Putin agreed with Chinese President Hu Jintao that he would return to Moscow again in July on an official visit.

Schroeder met with Koizumi at the sidelines of ceremonies to discuss their countries' efforts to win permanent seats in the UN and how the international organisation might be reformed.

Germany and Japan both favoured increasing the number of permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council, said German government spokesman Bela Anda outside the celebrations.

Confirming statements by Schroeder and Koizumi on Monday at the sidelines of ceremonies, Anda said the two leaders were in accord with India and Brazil in supporting a UN resolution to increase the number of permanent Security Council members from the present five.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview before the celebrations had expressed support for a permanent German seat on the UN security council.

Current permanent members - each with a veto to block Security Council action - are the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.


Subject: German news

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