Russia offers olive branch as NATO joins parade

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Dmitry Medvedev struck a  conciliatory note at Russia’s Victory Day military parade on  Sunday, urging world powers to unite for peace and defending his  decision to invite NATO troops to march on Red Square.

For the first time since Stalin began commemorating the  Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, serving US, British  Polish and French troops joined over 11,000 Russian soldiers to  parade past the Kremlin’s red walls in bright sunshine.

The opposition Communists and some Soviet war veterans  condemned  the move but Medvedev said in a speech that the lesson  from World War Two was “to urge us to unite in solidarity” to  counter present-day threats and ensure global security.

“Today, at the military parade, soldiers of Russia, of  countries of the (former Soviet Union), and of the Allied powers  will march together, in one column which is evidence of our  common readiness to defend peace”, he said.

Welsh Guards from the British military marched in their  trademark black bearskin hats ahead of 70 troops from the US  170th Infantry Brigade in a section reserved for the Soviet  Union’s war allies.

Underlining the message of reconciliation, a 1,200-strong  military band closed the parade with a moving rendition of  Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as German Chancellor Angela Merkel,  Chinese President Hu Jintao and other world leaders looked on.
Russia’s Communists, still the country’s biggest opposition  party, held a demonstration after the parade, chanting “Glory to  the great Stalin,” to protest against NATO forces for marching  over the square, home to the embalmed body of Lenin.

Most of the Soviet war veterans attending the parade seemed  unconcerned by the presence of NATO soldiers, though they did  not applaud when they marched past.

“Why not? Let them see how we celebrate a solemn parade,”  said ex-World War Two soldier Grigory Petrovich Zabuski. “I’m  absolutely not against it. I met English troops myself on the  Elbe on May 4, 1945.”

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