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6 Jul, 2009 14:17

In step with the Russian army

The Kremlin Guard of Honor is a regular feature in any state visit. The unit was on display as Barack Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, shortly after he landed in Moscow.

The Guard of Honor Company, part of the Presidential Regiment, is an elite unit headquartered in the Kremlin. It’s famous for its unique ceremonial techniques and is world-renowned. The Dance with the Carbines is its most breath-taking and complicated maneuver.

At 6.30 in the morning, the Guard of Honor Company is already at the training ground, marching along Cathedral Square and measuring out its special, Kremlin pace.

If you compare parades with ballet, then Major Lieutenant, Commander Ivan Kulikov is the choreographer.

“The last performance was quite nice and smooth, but you still have to be more accurate, more precise, especially with your carbines,” he explained.

The Guard of Honor Company is the only unit in the Russian Army where looks matter. To become a face of Russia, a soldier must be not less than 180cms tall, handsome, and with the expression of a Russian warrior. Add to this flexibility, an ear for music and nerves of steel, and here’s a portrait of a man every woman would dream of.

It’s also the dream of every soldier to serve here. But there is just one chance out of a hundred to join the special Company.

“We had to pass a lot of tests; the toughest was the one carried out by the FSB. I was very excited and a little nervous when I learned that I was chosen to serve in the Presidential Regiment. My family is very proud of me,” one of the soldiers, Sergey Vegerchuk, told RT.

And they have every reason to be proud. Dressed up in the historical uniform, the honor guards take part in the most important, high-profile, ceremonies carried out in front of the President, visiting heads of state and other VIP delegations.

“Many people ask me ‘what do you feel when you perform in front of the president?’ I don’t think about anything except my job – one step here, salute, then turn around and take your place. The sense of importance comes afterwards,” Ivan Kulikov said.

These soldiers attract daily crowds to watch the changing of the guards at the Eternal Flame, as others get ready for the weekly guard mounting performance which takes place every two weeks.

They know hundreds of eyes will be looking at them and no mistake is allowed from those who symbolize duty to the Russian Army.