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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

5,500 Troops to Sing Anthem A Cappella May 9

MTYoung athletes carrying Russian, Belarussian and Ukrainian flags on a fenced-off Red Square on Thursday as they participate in a Victory Day competition involving the so-called "hero cities" of World War II.
Thousands of troops will sing the national anthem a cappella as they march through Red Square on Tuesday, adding a new twist to the annual Victory Day parade that will celebrate the 61st anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany.

The May 9 celebrations will be toned down from last year, however, when a record 57 world leaders attended 60th-anniversary festivities. As in years past, Valery Gergiev will conduct a free concert, Mayor Yury Luzhkov will seed the clouds to prevent rain, and the day will end with dazzling fireworks displays.

Most Russians are hard-pressed to recite the words of the national anthem; the melody is the same as the Soviet anthem but the words were rewritten in 2000 to remove references to Lenin, the Communist Party and the Soviet Union.

Soldiers, however, do not have to make any extra effort as they prepare to sing because all servicemen are required to learn the anthem by heart when they join the military, said Colonel Vitaly Gusak, a spokesman for the Moscow military district. Servicemen also have to sing the anthem once a month during a drill, Gusak said. He did not say whether the anthem was sung without musical accompaniment.

A total of 5,500 troops are to sing the anthem a cappella during the parade, which will start at 10 a.m. and be broadcast live on state television. Red Square will be closed to the general public.

St. Petersburg's renowned Mariinsky orchestra, conducted by Gergiev, will play Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky starting at 1 p.m. at the Poklonnaya Gora war memorial. At 3 p.m., pop star Oleg Gazmanov will take the stage with a program dedicated to Victory Day.

Trubnaya Ploshchad will host a festival dedicated to the songs of the late bard and songwriter Bulat Okudzhava, who wrote several popular songs about the war. A concert will be held on Teatralnaya Ploshchad, while an arts festival will take place on Tverskaya Ploshchad. Communist supporters intend to rally on the square near Belorussky Station.

A sports competition between young athletes from so-called "hero cities" in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus is being held in the runup to the holiday and will wrap up Sunday. The "hero city" title was awarded to Soviet cities whose residents made great efforts to defend their cities during the war.

On Monday, senior government officials are to lay flowers and wreaths at the Grave of the Unknown Soldier and the statue of Marshal Georgy Zhukov near Red Square at 10 a.m.

Concerts and public festivities will take place Tuesday in some of Moscow's largest parks, including Gorky Park, Sokolniki, Izmailovsky, Kolomenskoye, Bitsa and Fili.

Tverskaya, Mokhovaya, Okhotny Ryad, Petrovka, Myasnitskaya and 1st Tverskaya-Yamskaya streets will be closed to traffic until the end of the festivities, as will Teatralnaya Ploshchad, Lubyanskaya Ploshchad, Teatralny Proyezd, Lubyansky Proyezd and the Boulevard Ring.

The Moscow city government is offering free rides on public transportation to all war veterans from Thursday to May 15. Normally, only needy Moscow residents are entitled to free rides.

Rostelecom has promised free long-distance calls within Russia and other former Soviet republics for war veterans. The long-distance provider is limiting the calls to 10 minutes and is requiring veterans come to special call centers to take advantage of the offer.