Fri, Feb 24, 2006 - Page 7 News List

War veterans in Russia aghast at ship poster mix-up

THE GUARDIAN , MOSCOW

Surf foaming at its bow, the great gray battleship seemed a potent symbol of Russian military might.

Yet officials in Moscow were licking their wounds on Wednesday after putting the ship on 20 giant billboards across the city to congratulate the military on its annual Defenders of the Fatherland day.

War veterans gearing up for the holiday yesterday were incensed to see the ship was clearly the famous World War II US battleship the USS Missouri.

"Did they want to insult us?" Captain Vladimir Zakharov asked a local journalist as he passed one of the billboards opposite the White House, home to the Russian Cabinet. "Like, you don't have any of your own hardware left, so take at look at someone else's?"

Despite its crumbling military, an intense pride is maintained in Russia's fighting prowess. The Missouri appeared next to a Russian Sukhoi jet and the slogan: "Happy holiday, warriors of Russia."

A spokesman for the Moscow government's advertising committee said the mistake was a "simple technical error" and officials were telephoning veterans' groups to apologize.

She said the picture of the Missouri, with its distinctive "63" marking, had been mixed up with the Russian artillery cruiser Slava.

A spokesman for the ministry of defense told Interfax it had no connection with the advertising.

Eduard Baltin, former commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, blamed the designers, saying, "Once they get their money, they don't care who or what they put on these things."

But, he added: "It's not such a big deal to confuse two great heroic ships. It's much worse when [US Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld mixes up Iraq and Iran."

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