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At Parade, Putin Warns of Terror Threat

MTMilitary officers marching in a Victory Day parade on Red Square at about the time of the explosion in Grozny on Sunday morning.
Shortly before a bomb exploded killing Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov in Grozny, President Vladimir Putin warned of the lingering danger of fascism and the immediate threat posed by global terrorism in a Victory Day speech to thousands of veterans, officials and dignitaries on Red Square.

"Today we don't have the right to close our eyes to the fact that Nazi swastikas and fascist ideas are still floating around the world, nor to the fact that a no less frightening evil has arisen: international terrorism. It also brings death and destruction," Putin said Sunday from a stage during festivities to celebrate the 59th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany.

Putin concluded his speech at 10:20 a.m., saying, "Glory to Russia! Hurrah!"

About 15 minutes later the bomb ripped through the VIP section of a Grozny stadium at a Victory Day celebration.

Sunday's Red Square parade -- held under overcast skies kept dry by Mayor Yury Luzhkov's seeding of the clouds -- started at 10 a.m. sharp, with 5,000 military servicemen and cadets marching into the square carrying Russian and Soviet flags and lining up for an inspection by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

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One unit was dressed in Red Army uniforms and helmets from World War II and carried flags adorned with a profile of Lenin and the slogan "To Our Soviet Motherland!"

Standing in a gray convertible ZiL limousine, Ivanov entered Red Square, where he was greeted by four-star General Ivan Yefremov, the commander of the Moscow military district, also standing in a convertible ZiL limousine.

Ivanov inspected the units standing at attention, greeting and congratulating each of them on the holiday. Soldiers in each unit responded in unison with the standard salute, "Health to you, Comrade Defense Minister!" and "Hurrah!"

After Ivanov's inspection of the troops, Putin gave his address and the troops sang the national anthem.

The troops wrapped up the hourlong ceremony by performing intricate marching routines to music from the Moscow garrison band.

In his speech, Putin paid tribute to World War II veterans, hundreds of whom, with medals draped on their chests, came to see the parade.

"They did not allow the country to be brought to its knees," Putin said. "They showed that no enemy can break, scare or defeat us. And they proved that our motherland had and always will have an enormous reserve of endurance."

Minutes before the Red Square festivities started Sunday, Boris Doroshenko, a 77-year-old veteran with several medals pinned on a tattered brown suit, read a poem cautioning about the nuclear age to a group of veterans and reporters near Lenin's mausoleum.

After finishing the reading, he declared that Victory Day is "Russia's most important holiday -- a celebration of survival and hope."

"Our generation knows how hard it was to survive," Doroshenko said. "We were so hungry that potato peels were considered a feast. The younger generation doesn't understand this and can't imagine it."

Victory Day celebrations were held around the country and in other former Soviet republics. In Moscow, veterans gathered in the square in front of the Bolshoi Theater to dance to war-era songs and at Poklonnaya Gora and Gorky Park to relax and swap stories.

The first Victory Day parade was held on Red Square on June 24, 1945.

In Soviet times, tanks and missiles were paraded through the square in a celebration of the superpower's military might.

The Red Square military parade was suspended after the Soviet collapse in 1991 but revived in 1995 on the 50th anniversary of Victory Day, although without the display of military hardware.

This Victory Day, World War II veterans for the first time were not invited to march in the parade.

"The parade was fine, but it's a shame that the soldiers of 1945 weren't represented," said Stanislav Lapin, 80, who suffered injuries three times as a member of a tank battalion that was in Prague when the Nazis surrendered.

Lapin expressed similar dismay over the collapse of the Soviet Union and Putin's performance as head of state.

"It's sad that after defeating an enemy like that we weren't able to deal with our internal enemies," Lapin said, referring to ethnic strife in former Soviet republics. "We had a wonderful government based on peace and friendship, and now that is all gone.

"I hope we can find a leader who will return glory to our country," he said. "Putin has not done a good job so far."

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