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Allied Troops to Join 10,500 Russian Soldiers in Victory Parade

Russian World War II veteran Sayara Shestopalova, 83, center, holding flowers and standing near the Marshal Zhukov monument and State Historical Museum, just outside Red Square, Thursday, May 6. Mikhail Metzel

More than 10,500 Russian soldiers will march for the first time alongside troops from the United States, France, Britain and Poland in a larger-than-life parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany this weekend, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said Thursday.

The Victory Day parade, which will start at 10 a.m. Sunday, will also include servicemen from nine other former Soviet republics, and 25 foreign leaders are to join President Dmitry Medvedev in the stands to watch the procession on Red Square.

The one-hour parade will feature six types of defense equipment for the first time — the Pantsir-S1 and Buratino air-defense systems, the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile, the Yak-130 trainer and the Mi-28 and Ka-52 helicopters, Vedomosti reported.

A total of 161 tanks and missiles will roll through the square, and 127 aircraft will soar over it, Serdyukov said.

Rehearsals for the parade have been going on for the past week, shutting down traffic in downtown Moscow for several hours every day.

“We see preparations for the parade as an element of our military preparedness,” Serdyukov said in an interview published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

The foreign troops are training together with their Russian counterparts.

“I think they are just as glad to take part in the parade as we are,” Serdyukov said.

On Wednesday, Defense Ministry officials presented the visiting servicemen with commemorative medals in red boxes for participating in the parade.

Serdyukov said the USS Blue Ridge and USS Kaufman warships would make friendly calls to Vladivostok and Murmansk on Sunday. The French anti-submarine frigate Latouche-Treville will also visit Murmansk.

Among the foreign leaders planning to attend are French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan will watch their troops march on Red Square. Kyrgyzstan will be represented by the head of the interim government, Roza Otunbayeva.

Creating a minor flap, the Defense Ministry first rejected and then approved an application by the Turkmen commander to lead his troops on horseback. The only commander to lead the troops on horseback previously was Red Army Marshal Georgy Zhukov during the first Victory Day parade in 1945.

Acting Moldovan President Mihai Ghimpu, whose government ousted a Russia-friendly regime last year, declined an invitation to attend this year’s parade, and his country will be represented by its ambassador to Moscow. Moldova earlier balked at sending troops to the parade, citing the cost, but will be represented by a contingent.

Troops from Belarus and Ukraine will also march, but their countries’ leaders opted to attend Victory Day parades at home instead of in Moscow.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who fought a brief war with Russia in August 2008, was not invited, Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko said.

In total, more than 102,000 Russian troops will take part in military parades around the country, Serdyukov said.

Streets near Red Square will be partly closed to traffic from 5 a.m. Sunday until the end of the parade, including Tverskaya Ulitsa, Novy Arbat, Novinsky Bulvar, police said.

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