Biggest military parade since 1989 commemorates VE Day in Prague
On Sunday, Czechs are marking VE Day - the 60th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany. On this cold and windy day, thousands gathered on Prague's Letna Plain, a huge open park just to the east of the Castle, to watch a unique military parade.
Tanks and armoured vehicles in camouflage colours paraded and units in historical uniforms marched past, saluting crisply to the guests on the grandstand. Among the guests of honour were many war veterans, the Czech Defence Minister, Karel Kuehnl and as the supreme commander of the Czech Armed Forces, also President Vaclav Klaus.
Around 1,100 people, 250 vehicles and 9 horses filed past on Letna Plain in what was the biggest military parade in the Czech Republic since 1989. Besides the land forces, the crowds could watch a fly-past of Czech helicopters, two types of Czech-made subsonic fighters and for the first time ever - a couple of brand new Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets that will gradually replace an aging fleet of Soviet Migs.
Finally, Czech police units marched past, followed by Czech veterans of the Gulf War as well as UN missions in the former Yugoslavia and participants of operation Enduring Freedom. The parade was concluded by Czech Tatra trucks, traditional Czech military vehicles. All the machinery remains on display on Letna Plain for the rest of Sunday where it will be admired especially by children, such as this young boy.
"It was really nice, I liked the tanks, both American and Czech."
His little brother was particularly thrilled by the supersonic jets.
"The fighter jets at the end were the best."
Young American: "I thought it was beautiful. It was very nice to see everyone come together."
Do you think that these things should take place more often?
Young American: "Yes, because I believe we should appreciate the people that were there before they disappear because they are dying at a very high rate. So while we can appreciate them, we should."
And which part of the parade did you enjoy most?
And how about you - what did you think of today's parade?
Young Czech: "I think the parade was great, I enjoyed it very much. I especially enjoyed the tanks."
And did you enjoy the helicopters and the fighter jets?
Young Czech: "Of course, I like the Gripens."
Young Czech: "Yes, maybe two years ago, I saw something similar, it was in Pilsen. But I think this event is much better."i
And do you think these things should take place more often?
Young Czech: "Yes, of course, because especially the young people have to know more about history - so I think - yes."
Although Sunday's military parade took place on exactly the same spot as communist parades before 1989, the organisers of Sunday's event say there is one important difference. While communist parades were demonstrations of power, the principal purpose of Sunday's file-past was to commemorate all those who fell to liberate Europe from Nazism 60 years ago.