MOSCOW – Rows of missiles and tanks rolled through Moscow's Red Square and dozens of combat jets roared overhead in the Victory Day parade Saturday in the largest show of Russia's military might in its post-Soviet history.
Victory Day, marking the defeat of Nazi Germany, is Russia's most important secular holiday, and the parade reflected the Kremlin's efforts to revive the nation's armed forces and global clout.
In a speech opening the parade, President Dmitry Medvedev said the nation's armed forces are "ready to give adequate response to any aggression."
Medvedev didn't specifically mention Russia's war with neighboring ex-Soviet republic Georgia in August, but alluded to it when he said that "even today there are those who engage in military adventurism."
The president said that among soldiers taking part in Victory Day parade, "there are those who have proven high capability of the Russian military in real action," in an apparent reference to the five-day conflict.
The hostilities erupted when Georgian forces moved to restore control over the separatist province of South Ossetia, which hosted Russian peacekeepers and had close ties with Moscow. Russia responded with overwhelming force, sending troops and tanks that quickly routed the Georgian military and drove deep into Georgia.
The Kremlin then recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another separatist province, as independent nations and permanently stationed nearly 4,000 troops in each of the two regions, ignoring Western protests.
Medvedev underlined Russia's firm support for South Ossetia and Abkhazia by sending his Victory Day greetings to leaders of both regions, putting them on equal par with heads of ex-Soviet nations who he also congratulated.
Medvedev said respect for international law is essential for maintaining global peace and reaffirmed his push for a new European security treaty.
He added that security in Europe must be based on "reliable arms control and reasonable sufficiency of military structures, broad cooperation between states and exclusively peaceful settlement of conflicts."
Saturday's parade displayed about 9,000 troops, more than 100 combat vehicles, including new Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles. For the first time, it featured the state-of-the art S-400 air defense missiles which Russian officials say are unrivaled in their combat capability.
Also taking part in the parade were 69 combat planes and helicopters — twice the number featuring in last year's show. They included the world's heaviest An-124 Ruslan cargo plane, Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers and scores of fighter jets and helicopter gunships.