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At World War II commemoration, Russian air force wins battle against weather

AFP | May 9, 2005

Specially equipped Russian Air Force planes won a white-knuckle battle with the weather over Moscow on Monday and managed to prevent rain from marring a Red Square military parade attended by more than 50 world leaders.
Russian pilots vs clouds at V-day parade

Beginning at dawn, a fleet of 11 Ilyushin-18 and Antonov-12 planes seeded chemical dispersal agents into bad weather upwind of Moscow, Air Force Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky told the state-run ITAR-TASS news agency.

Until the last minute, it appeared that their efforts, honed with decades of experience dating back to the Soviet era, would fail.

Huge clouds gathered over Moscow and the Red Square parade ground where thousands of troops were massing to commemorate victory over Nazi Germany 60 years ago. Drizzle forced Russian President Vladimir Putin to greet guests outside the Kremlin under umbrellas.

About 15 minutes before the parade, the rain stopped and patches of blue sky appeared, announcing a dry spell that held for the duration of the hour-long military extravaganza.

According to Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, the close timing was intentional.

"If the air force had carried out their sky-clearing operation a moment later, one cannot exclude -- in fact it is almost sure -- that the rain would have fallen on the parade," he told RIA-Novosti news agency.

"You can only clear the sky at a very precise moment, especially so when the clouds are so heavy."

The planes flew at altitudes of between 3,000 and 8,000 metres (10,000 and 25,000 feet) in an area between 50 and 150 kilometres (30 and 90 miles) from the capital, Drobyshevsky said.

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