Trainload of vintage T-34 tanks wows Russians

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Image source, AFP
Image caption, Families turned out to see the tanks on Sunday

A train carrying 30 vintage T-34 Soviet tanks has arrived near Moscow after an epic journey that took the tanks by sea and by rail from South-East Asia.

Russian families braved freezing temperatures to greet the unusual cargo when it arrived in Naro-Fominsk, 80km (50 miles) from the capital.

Russian media say Laos, an old Soviet ally, gave the tanks as a gift.

The tanks are said to be in perfect working condition and will likely be used in parades and films.

The T-34 played a vital role in the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, and tens of thousands were produced, with many exported long after the war to Soviet allies like Laos.

A state-funded war film called simply T-34 was reportedly watched by 21 million people and grossed $30m (£23m) in the first three weeks of this year.

How big an event is this?

For 12 days, Russian TV carried regular updates about the train's progress from the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, which is near the borders of China and North Korea.

Whenever the train stopped, it was greeted by orchestras and marching troops.

Image source, Russian Defence Ministry
Image caption, The tanks were blessed by a priest upon arrival
Image source, Rossiya 1
Image caption, Hundreds braved freezing temperatures to see the legendary T-34 tanks

In the Siberian town of Chita, hundreds turned out at the train station despite temperatures falling to minus 20 degrees centigrade.

"They came there to remember the feat achieved by Soviet tank drivers," said state television's Channel One.

According to official reports, the tanks will be used in historical dramas, museums and the annual parades in Red Square to mark victory over Nazi Germany.

It is difficult to overestimate the T-34's role in both the Soviet victory and the imagery surrounding it now, writes the BBC's Vitaly Shevchenko.