The country has never seen such a diversity of military hardware on the ground and in the air, or so many soldiers and officers marching in formation. In an exclusive interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov talks about how the parades will be organized, in what cities they will take place and what weapons will be displayed on Red Square for the first time.
Two years and one hour
RG: You once said that the army started preparing for the jubilee Victory Parade several years ago
SERDYUKOV: That is correct. After Victory Day in 2008, the president ordered us to prepare for the next parade. We submitted our proposals and in 2009, the size of infantry and motorized columns increased substantially. This time around it will be even bigger. Some elements have increased several times, for example, the band has grown from 600 to 1,200 musicians.
What new weaponry will you show on Victory Day?
First of all, the Pantsir-S1 air defense complex. Also taking part in the parade will be new S-400 air defense missiles, Topol-M strategic missiles and Dozor armored reconnaissance vehicles.
Did the Pantsirs arrive in Moscow straight from the Tula plant?
To be precise, they first arrived for training at the Alabino test range. I visited the Tula plant in advance to inspect this hardware,and I found it was fully ready for the parade.
How many soldiers and officers will take part in the parade? Who are we going to see in Red Square?
The total number of servicemen involved in the celebrations will be over 102,000. More than 10,500 will be engaged in Moscow.
The Russian Army will display all the armed services: land forces, the Air Force, the Navy, the Strategic Rocket Forces, space and airborne forces. In addition, as I said, there will be a 1,200-strong band which includes musicians not only from the Armed Forces and other Russian military agencies, but also from other countries.
Will they play Russian music? Have they learnt to play “The Slavic Woman’s Farewell”?
Yes, of course. In general, 161 land vehicles and 127 aircraft will be in action during the May 9 parade in Moscow.
It is a bold move to remove such a large number of personnel and materiel from the test sites and firing ranges. Are you not worried about combat readiness?
We see the preparation for the parade as an element of military training, and it’s part of unit training plans. But we try to schedule the training to make sure that the hours do not overlap with their regular hours. And don’t forget that training for parades provides drivers, for example, with a chance to hone their skills, it gives them a better feel of the machine with so many turns and regroupings.
Are the drivers conscripts or contractees?
They are all top-class drivers. Some of them are conscripts and some are serving under contract. For example, the driver of a Topol is usually a sergeant or an NCO. In general, every unit picks their best drivers to take part in the parade. Incidentally, some of the soldiers who will take part in the parade are due to retire in spring. They have asked not to be removed from their units before May 9 so that they could take part in the Victory Parade.
Of course, taking part in the parade on Red Square is a great honor for a soldier and an officer.
During a parade, column movement is strictly regulated. The speed used to be 5 km/hour for the foot soldiers and 18 km/hour for vehicles. This march will involve huge numbers of men and machines. Does that spell any changes in the time and speed of movement?
All the land vehicles should pass within an hour. The intervals between helicopter groups are between 10 and 40 seconds and between plane groups, 30 seconds. They fly at different altitudes and at different speeds. The altitude when flying over Red Square varies from 150 to 600 meters. One the other hand, by building up the amount of hardware year in and year out we make things more difficult for ourselves. Everything should be checked out to within fractions of a second.
Besides, the entry into Red Square will be something of a bottleneck. Formerly there were two entry passages, now there is only one. That is why we set up a training range in Alabino in order to calculate everything precisely and to determine what time we need to build the columns, pass through the square and leave it within the set time parameters.
The rendezvous place cannot be changed
There is a lot of talk about a super program prepared by the Air Force for May 9.
They will display practically every type of plane and helicopter. They will use to the full the aircraft stationed close to Moscow. But some aircraft will fly from afar. For example, the strategic planes will take off from their base in the city of Engels.
In general, the aviation part of the parade is a very difficult job. The airmen are training hard, so there should be no problems there.
What if the weather turns bad?
That may happen. Then we will cut the program to 96 machines and have more helicopters and fewer planes.
There will be many new aircraft taking part in the parade. We will unveil the Yak-130 training and combat plane. There will be many Sukhoi machines, including Su-34, MIGs, Ilyushins, Tupolevs of various modifications. We also plan to show Ka-52 and Mi-28N helicopters.
Have arrangements been made to dispel the clouds over Moscow?
Actually, it all depends on the amount of cloud, wind velocity and other climatic conditions. There are many imponderables. Of course, if necessary we will treat the clouds with the relevant agents. But the effect is not 100 percent guaranteed. So we are prepared for two variants, for fair weather and bad weather. The airmen have practiced both variants.
You will inspect the troops in Red Square riding in new “parade cars”. Are they Russian- or foreign-made?
They are Russian-made ZILs, assembled in a special workshop in Moscow. Let us put it this way, it is a restyled car. We have ordered three cars, two will be used, and one will stand by. They are already taking part in the practice.
We had to part with the old ones, because there are no spare parts for them left. The new cars, I think, will last 15-20 years.
Servicemen from the CIS armies as well as from Britain, the US, France and Poland will take part. Did you have problems with their accommodation and training?
The soldiers and officers of the wartime Allies flew in on their military transport planes with their standard weapons. They are all staying at the Defense Ministry’s holiday homes and sanatoria. They did not present any special demands regarding accommodation. They are well-behaved and they are enjoying taking part in the training. I think they are just as happy to participate in the parade as we are.
By the way, foreign naval vessels will pay friendly visits to Russian ports on May 9. The French warship the Latouche Treville will call at Murmansk port, the US Navy ship Blue Ridge will call at Vladivostok and the American frigate Kauffman will call at St. Petersburg.
You have sent some of your servicemen to take part in parades in neighboring countries, haven’t you?
Yes, to Belarus and Ukraine. Airborne units have gone to Minsk and Brest and to Kiev. Black Sea Fleet soldiers and officers will take part in marches in Odessa, Nikolayev and Kerch.
Sevastopol will see a joint military parade of Black Sea fleets of both countries.
Victory Day Parades will start all over the country at 10 a.m. Moscow time. Will the evening fireworks take place at the same time too?
Not only will the military parade in various cities begin at the same time, but there will be a live broadcast from Moscow of greetings from the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. As for the salute, it will begin at 10 p.m. local time everywhere.
Formerly, participants in the parade were given special badges. Will this tradition be followed this year?
This year they will be awarded Defense Ministry medals “For Participation in the Victory Day Military Parade.” We will stage receptions for veterans and will give them presents. Strictly speaking, Victory Parade is not the beginning or the end of a grand nationwide holiday. It is its high point.