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    MOSCOW, February 22, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated the servicemen, veterans and civilian personnel of the country's Army and Navy on the Day of Fatherland's Defenders (which Russia celebrates on February 23rd).

    When speaking on Sunday at a ceremony in the Kremlin devoted to the holiday, the President pointed out that "virtually every family in Russia is in some way or another connected to the Army".

    "We have many military dynasties, whose members generation after generation choose the hard warrior's occupation, the prestige and status of which has been proved by the very history of establishment and strengthening of the Russian state," he said.

    According to the President, millions of Russian citizens have done military service and for most of them it has become a real school of life.

    "Marches, exercises, military discipline are a strong people's job. For them service to the Fatherland is not just a military duty, it is the mission and meaning of their lives, it is the hard work of a warrior, which in Russia has always been especially honorable," Putin said.

    Today the military profession is becoming prestigious again, he pointed out. "In the new conditions the Armed Forces are again demonstrating their necessity and efficiency," he added.

    Russia's history is full of traditions, ideas and values of military patriotism, the Russian leader emphasized.

    "We are proud of talented commanders and brave soldiers of Russia who were able to defend their country and, moreover, not once saved the world from conquerors", he declared.

    The President expressed his certainty that "the glorious historical traditions of our Army will be continued by the present generation of the Russian military".

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