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Nuclear missiles parade across Red Square

Russian tanks leave the Red square during the rehearsal general for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 5, 2008. Russian military tanks, fighters, jets and ballistic missiles will take part in the May 9 Victory Day parade at Red Square for the first time since the Soviet time. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) May 9, 2008
Nuclear missiles and tanks paraded Friday across Red Square for the first time since the Soviet era but new President Dmitry Medvedev warned other nations against "irresponsible ambitions" that he said could start wars.

Marching bands and 8,000 troops goose-stepped across the square, followed by a huge display of heavy weapons including Topol-M ballistic missiles and T-90 tanks, and a fly-by of warplanes.

Reviewing his first parade as commander in chief, Medvedev warned against "irresponsible ambitions" that he said could spark war across entire continents.

In an apparent attack on US foreign policy and Western backing for Kosovo's independence, Medvedev also criticised "intentions to intrude in the affairs of other states and especially redraw borders."

Alongside the new president was his mentor and now prime minister, Vladimir Putin, standing under bright sunshine in a tribune in front of Lenin's Mausoleum, the Soviet holy of holies that was screened off by a giant hoarding inscribed with May 9, 1945.

The show of strength on the 63rd anniversary of victory against Nazi Germany symbolised Moscow's growing boldness following eight years of rule by Putin, whose hawkish policies have set Russia at loggerheads with Western capitals.

Medvedev, who was inaugurated Wednesday, is a close ally of Putin and had been his aide for much of the last two decades.

Many analysts believe that Medvedev, 42, will be a weak president reliant on the support of Putin, 55, who on Thursday became prime minister. Other observers say the untested Medvedev will grow into the presidency, which carries huge powers in Russia -- as symbolised by the Red Square parade.

Earlier Putin said the parade was not "sabre-rattling" but "a demonstration of our growing defence capability."

The commemoration came after Washington on Thursday said Moscow had expelled two of its diplomats.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday dismissed the move as "just the usual tit for tat" in response to Washington's expulsion of a Russian spy.

Tensions with the United States have been particularly high over Russia's pro-Western neighbour Georgia, which has received US backing for its bid to join the NATO military alliance.

On Thursday Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said his country and Russia had come close to war "several days ago" after Russia ramped up support for separatists controlling Georgia's Abkhazia region.

Medvedev told veterans invited to a Kremlin reception after the parade that "we must unite the international community so as not to allow the spread of new, very frightening threats," ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

On the streets of Moscow, the atmosphere was festive for one of the country's best-loved holidays.

Amid re-runs of World War II films, television stations showed soldiers parading through cities across the country.

Veterans were shown with chests loaded down with medals, while some young soldiers were dressed in World War II uniforms, complete with old-fashioned rifles and red stars on their helmets.

The occasion reflects the trauma of World War II in which millions of Soviet citizens died before driving back the Nazis, but also a large measure of Soviet-style propaganda which airbrushed dark aspects of the story -- not least Stalin's massive wartime repressions.

The reappearance of massive weapons in the capital after a break of 18 years required extraordinary preparations.

Ahead of the parade, the cobbles of Red Square were specially reinforced to cope with tanks and other heavy weaponry, while the Kommersant newspaper said nearby subway tunnels had been reinforced to prevent them collapsing.

Twelve air force planes were to ensure clear skies over Moscow with the use of cloud-seeding technology.

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US warns China of 'technological isolation'
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