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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 16:46 GMT
Tanks to return to Red Square
By Pavel Aksyonov
BBC Russian Service, Moscow

Soviet tanks on Red Square (file pic)
Soviet military parades were a feature of the Cold War
Russia plans to roll out tanks and missiles in May for a Soviet-style Victory Day parade in Red Square - the first such show in the heart of Moscow since 1990.

Russian military authorities promise to include their latest weapons, such as T-90 tanks and Topol-M long-range ballistic missiles.

In Soviet times, the parades were a kind of showcase for the communist regime.

The images of Soviet missiles and armoured vehicles were broadcast around the world. The tradition dated back to World War II.

The last time military vehicles were paraded in Moscow was on 9 May 1995 - after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the celebration took place on Kutuzovsky Prospekt - not in Red Square.

A spokesman for the Moscow military district, Oleg Yushkov, told the New Times magazine it was still "too early to speak about specific vehicles and uniforms".

"First the scenario must be approved. Then the training will start," he said.

Some Russian newspapers have said a new military uniform may also be paraded.

'Showing off'

One reason for cancelling the traditional military parades in Red Square was probably the reconstruction of the Voskresensky Gates, destroyed in the 1930s. They prevented one entrance being used by big vehicles such as missile launchers, though another entrance was still wide enough.

A former parliament deputy, Viktor Alksnis, thinks that the whole project was designed to do away with the communist tradition.

We also show modern weapons to foreign customers - we cannot ignore the commercial side of the parade
Pavel Danilin
Political analyst

"At the end of the 1990s the decision was made to stop the military parades in Red Square. At that time everything connected to the Soviet Union or the Soviet army was considered to be bad. That's why the entrance to the square was closed," he said.

"Such a parade in Red Square, after a gap of more than 15 years, would be a parody of those Soviet ones. In my opinion this is nothing but showing off, trying to imitate a great power. But our country unfortunately is not a great power anymore."

A prominent Russian human rights activist, Valeria Novodvorskaya, has an alternative point of view. She says such a parade is symbolic - another attempt to restore the Soviet empire.

"This is the Soviet standard, ideology, philosophy and above all, Soviet aesthetics of fear. What achievements can the semi-totalitarian Russian society show to the world? One cannot parade an oil pipeline. So instead this society shows off what it showed to the world throughout the Soviet era."

But in Russia the idea of parading heavy military hardware has lots of supporters.

One of them is political analyst Pavel Danilin. With such a parade, he says, "we demonstrate to Russian citizens that we can defend them".

"We also show modern weapons to foreign customers - we cannot ignore the commercial side of the parade. And we need to seriously raise the prestige of the armed forces and educate the younger generation."

Mr Danilin says such a parade does not signify that the Kremlin has imperial ambitions. "It shows that Russia has restored its great-power status and is ready to defend its sovereignty - nothing more."

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