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23 Feb, 2008 09:34

Russia marks Defender of the Fatherland Day

Russia's soldiers are being honoured as the nation celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day. Originally, the annual holiday acknowledged the country's gratitude to the men who fought and died in the country's service. Now it honours all males of all ages

The holiday was established in the Soviet times to honour the army. After the break-up of the Soviet Union it was given its current name.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Kremlin. The ceremony was attended by other top officials. 

Russia's presidential candidates have also been marking the Defender of the Fatherland Day, using the opportunity to communicate with potential voters.

The First Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, visited the renowned military unit, the Taman division, which has been operating since WW2. The presidential hopeful paid tribute to the soldiers who died during an anti-terrorist operation in the Chechen republic. Medvedev singled out two priorities for the military: new equipment and the wefare of servicemen. He said it's necessary to raise their salary and help them with accommodation.

The leader of the Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov addressed his supporters at a rally in the centre of Moscow. More than 1,000 people showed up. Zyuganov told those present that the election campaign is not fair. He stressed once again that all the presidential candidates should take part in televised debates for the vote to be truly fair.

Supporters of the Liberal Democratic Party also rallied in the centre of Moscow. Their leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky pointed out that a candidate from his party had never won a presidential election and that he knows how to significantly improve the standard of living in Russia.