Monday, February 22, 2010

Russia plans massive Victory Day display of military might

MOSCOW, February 4 (RIA Novosti) Russia will mark the 65th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany with its biggest ever post-Soviet demonstration of military hardware, a respected daily said on Thursday. On May 9, 165 combat aircraft will fly over Red Square, with some of them grouping to form the number 65, Kommersant said, referring to a Defense Ministry official. Preparations for the event have already started. The aircraft will include Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers and supersonic Tu-160 Blackjacks, Tu-22M3 Backfire long-range bombers and Il-78 Midas aerial tankers from airbases from across Russia, the paper said, citing Col. Alexei Kuznetsov, head of the ministry's press service. Kuznetsov also said there would be more ground-based military hardware in the parade this year than at previous events. Col. Oleg Storozhuk, a military pilot who holds the title of Hero of Russia, confirmed the figures, saying the aircraft would also include new Su-34 Fullback fighters, which are still to enter service, as well as helicopters, the paper reported. This year will see "the most spectacular and captivating air show," the pilot told the paper. Parades to mark victory in WWII, referred to as the Great Patriotic War in ex-Soviet states, are accompanied by a large military orchestra and comprise a personnel march pass, followed by sophisticated hardware, and a fly over by combat aircraft. The revived tradition of massive military Victory Day parades with tanks and other hardware rolling through the center of Moscow has been seen by some in the West as a sign of Russia's growing militarism. Moscow has resisted attempts to challenge the Soviet Union's role in World War II, which claimed the lives of 27 million Soviet nationals, according to official figures. Ex-Soviet republics and satellite states, including Ukraine, the Baltic countries and Poland, have seen Stalin's Russia as an aggressor.