MOSCOW, March 17. /TASS/. Twenty six heads of state have already confirmed they will attend the celebrations in Moscow of the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday.
"Invitations were sent to 68 heads of state, as well as UN, Council of Europe, UNESCO and EU chiefs," he said. "As of yesterday, 26 heads of state confirmed their participation."
Lavrov told a meeting of the Victory organizing committee that among them are the Chinese, Indian, South African, Vietnamese, North Korean and Czech leaders, as well as heads of UNESCO and the Council of Europe.
Lavrov said "steps made by the Americans and the aggresive core of the European Union" affected the participation of European delegations in the Victory anniversary events.
He said many people in Europe understood that the Moscow celebrations would be held not only to commemorate Europe's defenders from Nazism but "to revitalise the situation on the continent."
"We are expecting the Czech president, the head of the Slovak government, the Greek prime minister, the preisdent of Cyprus," Lavrov said.
The leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Norway have confirmed their participation in various formats, he added.
According to the minister, the decision of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit Moscow during the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Victory has special importance. "The parameters of her participation in these events are being specified," said Lavrov.
He said that 28 heads of state attended the celebrations of the 65th anniversary of the Victory in 2010.
Russia's top diplomat noted that The European countries’ refusal to attend Moscow’s Victory Day parade comes due to the aggressive actions of the US and the EU aggressive circles.
"As for the European countries’ participation, then it is affected by the actions taken by the Americans and the aggressive core of the EU," Lavrov said at the session of the Victory organizing committee.
Lavrov said however there are many of those in Europe who understand the significance of the upcoming events in Moscow that are aimed at paying the tribute to the memory of those who defended Europe and the world against Nazism.
Another goal of the celebrations in Moscow is to "improve the atmosphere on our continent today and to prevent the new split of Europe," Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Russia had invited 16 military units "from friendly countries, as well as members of the anti-Hitler coalition."
"Nine of them have confirmed participation," he said adding that Russian was waiting for a response from five countries, as two countries had refused to take part in the celebrations.
Shoigu also said that the Defense Ministry intended to invite his counterparts from 26 countries.
Shoigu said over 78,500 military servicemen and almost 2,000 pieces of military hardware will participate in Victory Day parades in Russia’s 28 cities.
"From March 25, the training of parade units will begin in troops. Military parades will be held in 28 cities and gun salutes will be fired," Shoigu said at a meeting of Russia's Pobeda (Victory) organizing committee.
The Defense Ministry plans to involve over 78,500 troops in military parades across the country, about 1,900 pieces of military hardware and equipment, 238 aircraft and 51 battle ships, the defense minister said.
"Military parades in Minsk, Bishkek and Yerevan will involve over a thousand servicemen, 74 pieces of modern armaments and military hardware, and also 16 aircraft and helicopters of the Russian Armed Forces," the Russian defense minister said.
Motorized troops are expected to involve 194 units of military hardware. Some of the armored vehicles will be demonstrated on May 9 for the first time, Shoigu said.
The defense minister said that 85 WWII veterans from all over Russia and seventy-five war veterans from 23 foreign countries will arrive in Moscow to attend a Victory parade in Red Square in Moscow.
The welcome ceremony and accommodation of the WWII veterans will be organized by the Defense Ministry jointly with the Russian Transport ministry and the Moscow government, Shoigu said. The celebrations of the 70th anniversary of victory in WWII envisage a cultural program for the veterans as well, the minister said.
The number of infantry troops that will march in Red Square on May 9 will be more than 15,000 or almost 50% up the number of servicemen who took part in the 2010 jubilee parade, Shoigu said. Six gala columns of servicemen, including servicemen of the Suvorov military school, Nakhimov naval school, music military schools, cadet Corps and Cossack troops, will take part in the gala parade. The historical significance of the parade is that servicemen will carry flags of glorified military units as they march in Red square; military companies with servicemen dressed in WWII uniforms will carry firearms dating back to the WWII epoch, the minister said.
A cavalry regiment of the presidential guards will crown the historical composition of the parade, the minister said.