Monday, May 10, 2010

Bearskins March in Red Square

Watch also a France 24 reportage from Red Square showing the French squadron as well.

Welsh Guards from Britain in their trademark red tunics and black bearskin marched past Lenin’s mausoleum carrying assault rifles. Armed U.S. troops from the 170th Infantry Brigade based in Germany followed shortly after.  French air force troop and a Polish army unit also took part in the parade. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia's Vladimir Putin were sitting together in the stands.

The presence of foreign troops in Red Square - once the heart of the Soviet Union - was a highly symbolic gesture, BBC says, demonstrating how far the rivalry of the Cold War has been pushed aside.

France was represented at the parade by the Normandie-Niemen squadron; the US by a detachment from the 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment; and Poland by 75 service personnel representing the Polish army, air force and navy, the AFP reports.

Britain was represented by 76 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, wearing bright red tunics and tall bearskin caps. One member told the BBC they were excited to be taking part as it was important that former allied forces that defeated the Nazis during WWII should be together on the 65th anniversary of the ending of the war.

Russia has commemorated its World War Two victory with a grandiose military display in Moscow's Red Square. For the first time ever, NATO troops took part in the parade, marching alongside some 10,000 Russian troops, Reuters reports. Underlining the message of reconciliation, a 1,200-strong military band closed the parade with a moving rendition of Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

“Our unified formation is evidence of our common willingness to defend the peace,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the troops. “Only together can we confront today’s threats, only on the basis of good neighbourliness can we solve the problems of global security.”

Most Russians seem to back Medvedev’s invitation to the NATO forces. A poll by the independent Levada Centre last month showed that 55 percent viewed the presence of NATO troops at the parade as wholly or partly positive, with only 28 percent opposing it. The result may reflect markedly better relations between Moscow and Washington since Obama’s election and his 'reset' of relations. This has already brought a new treaty cutting nuclear weapons and a deal on helping supply NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Victory Day is one of Russia’s most important public holidays and Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said that this year’s commemorations would be among the biggest ever, with over 102,000 troops marching in cities across this vast country.

Obama, unable to come to Moscow because of a scheduling clash, praised the invitation to NATO troops.“President Medvedev has shown remarkable leadership in honouring the sacrifices of those who came before us, and in speaking so candidly about the Soviet Union’s suppression of elementary rights and freedoms,” he said in a statement.

Please read 'The Songs of Victory'

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