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5 Apr, 2010 14:30

NATO soldiers to march on Red Square with Russian troops for first time

In an unprecedented event, battalions from Britain, France and the United States will participate in the military parade on May 9 this year in Moscow to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed this, saying that those three countries have agreed in principle to Russia’s invitation.“Since there have already been some political speculations on this issue, I would like to stress that the contingent from the anti-Hitler coalition countries, who have contributed greatly to the defeat of Nazi Germany, will participate in this parade”, said Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Aleksandr Kolmakov in a press conference on Monday.Responding to some media coverage, Kolmakov stressed that it would not just be “NATO troops” marching on Red Square, but the battalions from the countries which helped fight fascism in Europe.Invitations from the Russian Ministry of Defense have been sent to the Defense Ministries of Britain, the US and France and “the leaderships from those countries have appreciated such a gesture from Russia and have appointed the battalions that will take part in the parade”, said Kolmakov. For instance, he pointed out that France will be represented by aviators of the legendary “Normandie-Niemen” squadron, while the US will be represent by the land forces which took part in the events that took part on the River Elbe and the opening of the Second Battlefront.The UK ambassador to Russia has also confirmed that Britain will be represented by a marching detachment of the First Battalion Welsh Guards, which recently returned from Afghanistan, as well as approximately 45 musicians from the Royal Air Force.“Besides this, considering the contribution to the defeat of the Nazis by the Polish Troops, which fought against the German Nazis on the territory of the former Soviet Union, participated in the defeat of Berlin and took part in the Victory Parade of 1945, it has been decided to invite the Polish Squadron Guard of Honor,” said Kolmakov.Kolmakov noted that in response to Russia’s invitation, the heads of the British, the US and French Defense Ministries have “expressed confidence that the joint participation of their battalions with Russian troops in such an important event and will be a sign of recognition of an indisputable part that the Soviet troops played in defeating Nazi Germany and will contribute immensely to interstate relations.”Colonel General Kolmakov added that for the parade to run smoothly a joint rehearsal will be held on Red Square and the foreign squadrons will be accompanied by Soviet military marching music. However, he has denied commenting on the exact number of the foreign troops that will take part in the parade.

Russian soldiers to take part in other Victory Day Parades

Kolmakov has also announced that Russian soldiers will participate in the Victory Day parades in Ukraine’s Kiev and Belarus’ Brest and also battalions from the CIS countries will also take part in the parade in Moscow. However, Georgia has not been invited to take part in the May 9 parade on Red Square. “We sent invitations to CIS member countries. Georgia is not a CIS member,” said Aleksandr Kolmakov.

The 2010 Victory Day parade

This is the first time that the foreign troops will not only be present, but will also be actively participating in the Victory Day parade on Red Square. Before this, foreign military attaches could be present at such an event, but only as observers.It is expected that this year’s parade will be even more mighty and spectacular than last year’s, when over 9000 soldiers and more than 100 vehicles participated in the parade. According to Vadim Koval, the representative of Russia’s Rocket Strategic Forces, the Russian army will demonstrate on Red Square for the first time the giant Topol-M nuclear missile launcher.The Soviet-era tradition of parading military hardware on Red Square was revived in 2008. According to the Ministry of Defense, about 100,000 soldiers will take part in the parades all over Russia. “More than 60 cities will take part in Victory Parades, starting from 10:00 Moscow time,” said Kolmakov. Also, the military parade in Moscow will be broadcast live on national television.

Opposition reaction

However, not everybody in Russia approves of the Defense Ministry’s initiative to invite foreign troops. The Communists have sharply criticized this decision, saying that “foreign soldiers have no right to appear at this celebration and march on Red Square.” The first deputy communist party leader Ivan Melnikov said that the presence of the veterans of the anti-Hitler coalition parties is “possible”, but only as observers. However he opposes that idea of active foreign soldiers marching in the parade, calling it unacceptable. “These are the soldiers from the countries that are members of the aggressive military NATO alliance. They are dreaming about being on Red Square. For them it’s a symbolic gesture. We shouldn’t be helping them in achieving this dream,” said Melnikov.Another opposition group, the National Bolsheviks, has opposed Russian Defense Ministry’s initiative. A group or young people burned a NATO flag and threw several smoke bombs at the NATO Information Office in Moscow on Monday. Supporters of Eduard Limonov, the founder of the banned National Bolshevik Party, took responsibility for the actions, saying that it was aimed at protesting against NATO servicemen participating in the Victory Parade on May 9.Olga Masalkova, RT