Bush makes history as Russia relives Soviet era with tribute to its war dead

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History was turned on its head yesterday as George Bush became the first US president to review a Soviet-style military parade on Red Square in a display of US-Russian friendship that would have been unthinkable during the Cold War.

History was turned on its head yesterday as George Bush became the first US president to review a Soviet-style military parade on Red Square in a display of US-Russian friendship that would have been unthinkable during the Cold War.

The occasion, the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany, had strong martial overtones but political differences were put aside, at least for one day, as more than 50 world leaders helped President Vladimir Putin pay tribute to the USSR's war dead and its surviving veterans.

The guest list included every significant world leader, except Tony Blair who sent John Prescott.

France's President Jacques Chirac, Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, China's President Hu Jintao, Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, filled Red Square's review stand.

The parade had poignant echoes of the original in 1945 when Josef Stalin stood atop Lenin's tomb and watched the Red Army toss the defeated German army's standards at his feet. It began with four soldiers in dark green ceremonial uniforms goose-stepping across Red Square to rousing martial music clutching a Soviet victory flag emblazoned with the hammer and sickle.

The flag was a replica of the one placed atop the shattered Reichstag in Berlin in 1945 by the Red Army after it took control of the city.

Wave after wave of soldiers then followed bearing Red Army standards. Infantrymen wearing the Soviet soldier's helmet from the war, sappers with dogs, tank troops wearing their black padded leather headgear, sailors in old-fashioned blue and white striped tops - they all marched past the world's leaders, their faces etched with pride.

A phalanx of MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets flew over, releasing white, blue and red smoke, the colours of the Russian flag. Sergey Ivanov, the Russian Defence Minister, stood in the back of a silver open-top Zil limousine which drove slowly past the ranks.

The veterans, the men and women who fought the Wehrmacht from Moscow to Berlin so tenaciously, sat upright in open-topped war-era trucks that rolled gracefully across Red Square. Many of them clutched red carnations which they later laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

President Putin, who seemed at ease and bristling with pride, delivered a short speech saying the day marked "the victory of good over evil and of freedom over tyranny".

He called for the world to unite to fight terrorism and "to defend a world order based on security and justice". The Soviet Union's sacrifice in what Russia calls "The Great Patriotic War" is particularly significant with the death of an estimated 30 million soldiers and civilians.

Mr Bush stood with Mr Putin and they seemed friendly and relaxed. But, while Mr Bush did not raise the sensitive subject of Russian democracy, he made it clear that it was merely a temporary truce on a subject that has come to dominate their once chummy relationship.

¿ Tony Blair, in the German daily Bild, warned Germans not to develop a "victim culture" over their suffering in the Second World War, saying that Germany was responsible for the war and its consequences.

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