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VICTORY DAY BLENDS PARADE AND POLITICS

Russia staged an old-fashioned Soviet-style parade on Red Square Thursday, with Boris Yeltsin presiding from atop Lenin's mausoleum over a military gala rife with election campaign symbolism.

More than 7,000 armed soldiers, sailors and cadets marched across the cobblestone square in an early morning event the Kremlin acknowledged was timed for the convenience of the president's campaign schedule.Yeltsin used the Victory Day holiday commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II to stump for more support in his tough race for re-election against Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov.

Later in the day, Yeltsin was to fly to the Volga River city of Volgograd to work the holiday crowds there before hopscotching across southern and central Russia.

Communist backers drew a crowd of about 20,000 to their own anti-government march a few blocks from the Kremlin.

Besides trying to alarm voters about the consequences of a Communist regime, Yelt-sin's strategists have worked to attract Communist sympathizers by sounding patriotic themes and hearkening back to simpler times.

That strategy was on parade with the soldiers, some of whom carried red Soviet military flags praising Lenin and the glory of the Communist Party.

It was the first time since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 that the government revived the traditional huge parade of soldiers across the famous square, packed with crowds. Last year, thousands of veterans marched while Yeltsin and Western leaders looked on.

Only the tanks and missiles were lacking from the showcase parade reminiscent of the Soviet era. Construction work on nearby Manezh Square and a lack of military funding prevented that.