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Russia Marks V-Day with Red Square Parade

Thousands of soldiers and war veterans paraded through Moscow's Red Square on Monday as leaders from 50 states joined celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

In a keynote speech at the start of the parade, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated participants in the Victory Day military parade and praised those who fought for freedom and independence.

He said the war had shown that resorting to force to solve problems would result in tragedy, so a peaceful order should be safeguarded based on security, justice and cultural exchange.

The world must never allow a repeat of the Cold War or a real war, he added.

A salute was fired and the Russian national anthem played before the parade began. Soldiers in modern and WWII-era uniforms and with WWII-era weapons marched in tight formation, the slap of their boots echoing across the square's cobblestones.

A host of world leaders, including President Hu Jintao, US President George W. Bush, French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, joined Putin and war veterans near the Lenin Mausoleum for the parade that also featured a flyover by MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets.

Silver-haired veterans with rows of medals on their chests filled the stands set up in front of the GUM department store on the periphery of the square, which had a huge victory banner draped across its long facade.

Russia lost a staggering 27 million people in the war, and Victory Day is an important holiday. Television has shown scores of Soviet-era war movies over the last several days, and posters and signs celebrating the day are plastered around Moscow, St. Petersburg, Volgograd and other cities.

(Xinhua News Agency May 9, 2005)

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