Putin Brings Back the May Day Parade to Red Square

Putin awarded "Hero of Labour" medals to five workers at a ceremony in the Kremlin.

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Nothing to worry about. This must be one of those deeply conservative gestures we keep hearing about.

Russia staged a huge May Day parade on Moscow's Red Square for the first time since the Soviet era on Thursday, with workers holding banners proclaiming support for President Vladimir Putin after the seizure of territory from neighboring Ukraine.

Thousands of trade unionists marched with Russian flags and flags of Putin's ruling United Russia party onto the giant square beneath the Kremlin walls, past the red granite mausoleum of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin.

Many banners displayed traditional slogans for the annual workers' holiday, like: "Peace, Labour, May". But others were more directly political, alluding to the crisis in neighboring former Soviet republic Ukraine, where Russian troops seized and annexed the Crimea peninsula in March, precipitating the biggest confrontation with the West since the Cold War.

"For the first time, stages will be filled, and 5,000 (labor) veterans will stand on the tribunes of Red Square," Sergei Chernov, chairman of the Moscow Labor Union Federation, was quoted by ITAR-Tass as saying, ahead of the march, which is being seen as part of President Vladimir Putin's efforts to stoke patriotic feelings following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

In past years, it has fallen to the Communist Party to keep up the May Day tradition. They held a separate rally Thursday in central Moscow that drew about 10,000 people.

Unlike Kremlin leaders in Soviet times, Putin did not personally preside at the parade from atop the mausoleum. But he carried out another Soviet-era tradition by awarding "Hero of Labour" medals to five workers at a ceremony in the Kremlin. He revived the Stalin-era award a year ago.

Putin has described the breakup of the Soviet Union as a tragedy and overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy in March by declaring Russia's right to intervene in former Soviet countries to protect Russian speakers.

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So many Putins. So little time.

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