Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Monday, 5 May 2008 12:28 UK

Putin defends missiles at parade

Police with sniffer dogs patrol near a Topol missile at the parade dress rehearsal on 5 May
The parade is expected to draw large crowds on Friday

Russia's display of heavy weapons in this year's Victory Day parade in Moscow is "not sabre-rattling", President Vladimir Putin insists.

Tanks and intercontinental missiles are to be paraded for the first time since the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

The outgoing Russian leader said that Friday's parade to mark the end of World War II would demonstrate Russia's growing defence capabilities.

"We do not threaten anyone and do not intend to do so," he said.

A dress rehearsal for the parade was conducted on Monday.

Mr Putin is stepping down as president on 7 May to be replaced by Dmitry Medvedev.

'Growing capabilities'

"For the first time in many years combat equipment will be involved in the parade," Mr Putin told government officials.

"It's a demonstration of our growing capabilities in the defence sphere.

"We are capable of protecting our people, citizens, our state and our wealth."

Last year, Mr Putin announced the resumption of bomber patrols in international airspace and ordered the navy back into the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

High oil and gas prices means that Russian can afford to bolster its military capability, correspondents say.

But they say it is nothing like as large as it was during the Soviet times.

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