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Ukraine plays symbolic role in France's Bastille Day parade

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By AP  with Euronews
Alphajets of the Patrouille de France fly over the Champs-Elysees avenue during the Bastille Day parade Thursday, July 14, 2022 in Paris.
Alphajets of the Patrouille de France fly over the Champs-Elysees avenue during the Bastille Day parade Thursday, July 14, 2022 in Paris.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Christophe Ena

The war in Ukraine featured prominently in Bastille Day celebrations in France on Thursday, with thousands of French troops marching down the Champs-Elysees avenue alongside allies from Eastern Europe.

The traditional parade, a powerful political, historical and symbolic annual event in France, also featured warplanes, military vehicles and a drone in a performance showing off France's military efforts to support Ukraine.

The opening of this year's Bastille Day parade was designed to demonstrate France’s commitment to NATO and also to its European allies touched most closely by the war in Ukraine.

Troops from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary were assigned the front position, bearing their national flags. Multinational troops deployed to Romania after the invasion marched after them.

The higher-than-usual temperatures in Paris this week didn't deter crowds from gathering to watch the parade, surrounded by tight security along the Champs-Élysées.

Pupils of the Special Military School of Saint-Cyr (Ecole speciale militaire de Saint-Cyr) prepare for the Bastille Day military parade in Paris, 14 July 2022AFP

On the eve of Bastille Day, French President Emmanuel Macron hailed Ukraine’s unexpected ability to stand up to Russia's aggression.

He also called for a review of France’s military organisation to make it more nimble in the face of changing threats, as well as for a “rethink” of France's military presence in Africa.

“Each and every one of us was struck by the Ukrainian nation’s moral strength that allowed it to hold on despite an initially unfavourable balance of power," Macron told French military brass Wednesday night.

“I’ve asked the minister, the joint chief of staff and the general delegate for armaments to review the pertinence of our organisations, our structures and even the way we look at things ... to sometimes be able to make decisions faster, to coordinate better and with efficiency, and to adapt to the evolutions of conflicts," the president said.

Macron and other dignitaries presided over Thursday's event in which more than 6,000 people and 200 horses of France's Republican Guard took part, alongside 65 planes, 25 helicopters and 181 vehicles.

A Reaper, a sophisticated American combat drone, swooped over the parade for the first time, with drones a powerful symbol of the Ukraine war, where they're being used more intensively than any other war to date.

Bastille Day marks the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789 by angry Paris crowds that helped spark the French Revolution and by extension, a spirit of national unity, thanks to broad rights granted to citizens in the ensuing years.

Celebrations are held in towns across France and beyond, with parties from New Orleans to Australia.