BERTIE JOINS LEADERS IN TRIBUTE TO VE DAY; Premiers gather in Moscow to mark defeat of Nazis.
TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern joined more than 50 world leaders in a victory parade yesterday to mark the 60th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II.
At a lavish ceremony in Moscow's Red Square, Russian President Vladimir Putin played host to politicians celebrating VE Day.
The dignitaries met to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers and millions of civilian dead.
The word "victory" was emblazoned on the Kremlin wall in several languages as Mr Ahern and the other leaders laid red carnations and a huge carpet of red roses at the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier.
Fighter jets streamed smoke in the white, blue and red colours of the Russian flag over the square as soldiers sang patriotic wartime songs.
Putin thanked the Soviet Union's wartime allies, flanked by US President George Bush, French President Jacques Chirac and British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
And to prove the ceremony was as much about looking forward as it was back, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was also there. Putin said his country would never forget the debt owed to the millions of Soviet citizens who died to defeat Nazism, adding: "I bow low before all veterans of the Great Patriotic War."
He went on to describe May 9, 1945, as "a day of victory of good over evil, freedom over tyranny". Putin said: "The most cruel and decisive events unfolded in the Soviet Union. In those years we lost tens of millions of citizens."
Moscow has often complained the Soviet role is not appreciated in the West, but Putin added: "We have never divided the victory between ours and theirs and we will always remember the help of the Allies."
Under overcast skies, white-haired veterans with gleaming medals drove down the cobbled square in green trucks as the audience cheered.
Four goose-stepping soldiers dressed in green and gold embroidered uniforms carried a red flag with a hammer and sickle - a replica of the banner of the Red Army's 150th Rifle Division flown from the top of Berlin's Reichstag on May 1, 1945. Soldiers in modern and World War II uniforms marched in tight formation.
The Soviet Union lost an estimated 27million people in the conflict it calls the Great Patriotic War. Few families were untouched and the holiday remains sacred across most of the former Soviet Union. Putin drew a parallel between the war and the threat of terrorism and said today's generation must "build a world order based on security and justice". He added: "There's no alternative to our fraternity, our friendship with our close neighbours.
"And Russia is prepared to build such ties with the rest of the world that are strengthened not only by lessons of the past, but by aspirations to our common future."
Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi afterwards held talks with Putin, as territorial disputes over four Russian-held islands in the Pacific linger on.
Bush pointedly balanced his Moscow visit with a trip to the Baltic nation of Latvia, which he celebrated as a democracy.
But he caused some diplomatic friction with Russia as he labelled the Soviet domination of the Baltics and Eastern Europe after 1945 as one of the darkest eras in history.
Tight security yesterday closed the heart of the Russian capital to the public and anti-aircraft batteries were on alert to protect the city's airspace.
The security caused concern amid a rash of attacks by Chechen terrorists over the past three years, including a suicide bombing near Red Square.
UNITED: Mr Ahern, circled, with world leaders in Red Square, Moscow, yesterday; MAKING A POINT: Russian Premier Putin and President Bush