Security tight for Greek parade
Greek authorities have launched a massive security operation across central Athens for an Independence Day military parade, fearing anti-austerity protests could disrupt the march.
Thousands of police, including hundreds of riot police and special units, were mobilised in the capital, while traffic on all major routes leading to the parade area has been blocked off.
For the first time, the public was banned from a large part of the route, including the area in front of Parliament from where politicians and other officials will watch the march. Cordons of police blocked off surrounding streets to pedestrians, allowing only access to those with special invitation or accreditation.
As the ceremonies got under way with President Karolos Papoulias laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of Parliament and a military band playing the national anthem, a group of about 10 people at the bottom of Syntagma Square across a main street from the legislative building chanted "Traitors".
Usually, thousands of people waving Greek flags line the main streets of central Athens to watch the March 25 military parade, which marks Greece's uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1821.
But public anger has grown as the government has imposed yet more spending cuts and tax hikes during a severe financial crisis. On another national day last October, the country's figurehead president was heckled and a similar parade called off due to protests.
Since then, politicians have frequently fallen victim to angry groups shouting insults or throwing yoghurt or eggs at them during public appearances across the country.
An Independence Day parade by schoolchildren on Saturday was also held under draconian security measures, with police blocking off a large area of the route to pedestrians. Members of the public, including the children's parents, were able to watch the parade only after it had passed in front of Parliament.
The country's wounded war veterans said they would not participate in this year's military parade for the first time, objecting to austerity measures.
Security was also increased for parades in other cities across the country, while some municipalities decided to break with tradition and not set up stands for local politicians to watch the parades.