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The BBC's James Rogers
"There was an apparent reference to the Kremlin's ongoing campaign in Chechnya"
 real 28k

The BBC's Nick Childs in Moscow
"A stronger more confident Russian military machine"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Putin hails Russian military
victory parade
The parade is hugely significant for Russian soldiers

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid tribute on Tuesday to the armed forces' defeat of Nazi Germany, saying it would help to build a strong and democratic country.



We have become used to victory. This habit is in our blood

Vladimir Putin

The newly inaugurated president was leading celebrations in Moscow's Red Square to mark the 55th anniversary of the World War II victory.

"We have become used to victory. This habit is in our blood," President Putin said, standing next to his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.


President Putin with WWII veterans
Putin broke with tradition by choosing not to watch from the mausoleum

"Time and again it will help us in peace time, it will help our generation to build a strong and flourishing country, will raise high the Russian banner of democracy and freedom," Mr Putin said.

Massed ranks of soldiers marched proudly behind a red, Soviet hammer-and-sickle-flag in a Victory Day parade.

War veterans with medals glittering in the sunshine also marched past the mausoleum of the Soviet Union's founder Vladimir Lenin, which remains a potent symbol of the past.

The Victory Day celebration is one of the most cherished public holidays in Russia and has huge emotional significance for the Russian armed forces, who are still battling separatist guerrillas in Chechnya.

"We know that peace means, above all, a strong economy and well-being of the people," President Putin said in his address. "We shall pass this main military secret on to our children."

Chechnya conflict

In a reference to the war in Chechnya, Mr Putin also said the military spirit on display was a warning to those who use terrorism.

Our correspondent in Moscow says Mr Putin owes a debt to the army who helped him come to power and the generals will be looking to the new president to help restore past greatness.

Millions of Russians lost their lives during the 1941-1945 struggle - known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.

President Putin has gone out of his way to court the armed forces since taking up the reins of power in Russia.

The armed forces "help us out of any situation, maintaining their consciences and honesty, retaining pride in our past and our present," he said at the anniversary parade.

"Glory to our army, our army of liberators. Hurrah!"

Tank battle

The cry was echoed by the thousands of soldiers assembled on Red Square, where the first victory parade took place in 1945.

The last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, also attended the parade.

For days in the run up to the holiday, television channels have been packed with Soviet-era war films, documentaries and talk shows discussing the conflict.

On Monday President Putin visited Kursk in southern Russia, where Soviet forces defeated a German offensive in 1943 in the biggest tank battle in history.

He met veterans there and unveiled a war memorial.

Mr Putin has endorsed a tough new military doctrine and promised to raise spending on weapons by 50%.

But although early successes in Chechnya were decisive in the president's political rise, problems encountered since then in dealing with the rebels' guerrilla tactics have only underlined the serious weaknesses in the armed forces.

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See also:

07 May 00 | Europe
Putin takes power
27 Mar 00 | Europe
What now for Chechnya?
28 Mar 00 | Europe
Putin's foreign policy riddle
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