Russia warns foes in Soviet-style show of might

12th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

The display to mark the 64th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II came amid renewed tensions with Georgia after NATO's decision to hold war games in the Caucasus country infuriated Moscow.

Moscow -- Russia on Saturday sternly warned its foes not to dare attempt any aggression against the country, as it put on a Soviet-style show of military might in Red Square including nuclear capable missiles.

The display to mark the 64th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II came amid renewed tensions with Georgia after NATO's decision to hold war games in the Caucasus country infuriated Moscow.

"We are sure that any aggression against our citizens will be given a worthy reply," President Dmitry Medvedev said in a speech in Red Square side-by-side with powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"The victory over fascism is a great example and a great lesson for all peoples and is still current today when people are again starting military adventures," he added.

Russia's war with Georgia in August over Georgian breakaway regions sent Moscow-NATO ties to their worst level since the Cold War and tensions have flared again over the alliance's decision to go ahead with the exercises.

Moscow, which remains at loggerheads with Georgia's pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili, angrily condemned the war games that started this week as a provocation that risk stoking instability in the region.

"Protecting the motherland is our holy duty, it is a moral foundation for all generations," said Medvedev. "The future of Russia will be peaceful, happy and successful."

Before handing over to Medvedev as president last year, Putin resurrected the Soviet practice -- dropped after Communism -- of having missiles and heavy tanks rumbling over the Red Square cobbles in front of Russia's leaders.

Thousands of soldiers and more than 100 items of hardware featured in the Red Square parade, which was matched by similar demonstrations across Russia involving almost 30,000 troops, officials said.

Thousands of soldiers marched past Medvedev and Putin, before dozens of heavy tanks, including the main T-90 battle tank and the Sprut self-propelled anti-tank gun, thundered through Red Square to the sound of martial music.

There was a rare public showing for some of Russia's best known missile systems, including the S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, the short range Iskander-M and the medium-range Buk.

As in 2008, Russia proudly showed off a half dozen examples of its nuclear-capable Topol intercontinental ballistic missile which has a range of more than 10,000 kilometres (6,500 miles).

Squadrons of fighter jets also flew over Red Square.

The parade was overseen by Defence Minister Anatoly Serdukov, a civilian ex-furniture salesman implementing a hugely controversial military reform to eliminate Soviet-era structures and prepare the army for modern warfare.

"Greetings comrades! I congratulate you on the 64th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War," Serdukov, dressed in a suit, told the soldiers from an open-top car.

"Hurrah!," shouted the soldiers, creating a huge wave of sound with the traditional Russian victory cry that shook Red Square.

According to the Russian authorities, 8.6 million Soviet soldiers and 27-28 million civilians were killed in the conflict. Officials have repeatedly emphasised that Russia's role in defeating Hitler should never be forgotten.

Moscow has been festooned with official posters with slogans like "May 9, a holiday in our homes and in our hearts" while state television has repeatedly played archive footage of the war.

The restoration of the heavy weaponry to the parade is a throwback to the days when reclusive Soviet leaders would observe the proceedings from the top of Lenin's mausoleum on Red Square.

However as in 2008, Putin and Medvedev avoided embarrassing comparisons with the past by surveying events from a podium rather than the mausoleum, which was largely hidden by a festive hoarding.

Stuart Williams/AFP/Expatica

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