France and Russia draw old swords at 1812 battle
BORODINO, Russia (AFP) - Thousands of mounted French and Russian actors Sunday recreated a 200-year-old battle at the gates of Moscow that led to the fall of Napoleon and the rise of Russian patriotic fervour.
President Vladimir Putin arrived to oversee the grandiose festivities after seeing his government spend US$1.1 million (S$1.4 million) on a celebration of not only Russian history but also its military and resolve.
France is represented at the sleepy Borodino field 120km west of Moscow by former president Giscard d'Estaing and 1,550 actors who began crossing swords with 1,450 Russians before nearly 100,000 history buffs.
"The entire people rose against the invaders. Its unprecedented heroism, spiritual strength and heartfelt love for the land filled our country with an tremendous force that had never been seen before," Mr Putin said in a keynote address. The people's heroic resolve "was futile to resist and impossible to defeat," the Russian leader added as a heavy mist rolled over the lush greens of the immaculately trimmed grass around the memorial.