Russia Holds Massive ‘Victory Day’ Parade After Coronavirus Delay

Forced to postpone Russia's traditional May 9 Victory Day celebrations by the coronavirus pandemic, Putin rescheduled the parade for just a week ahead of a July 1 vote on controversial constitutional reforms
Host photo agency/AFP Mikhail Voskresenskiy

Russia held its 75th annual Victory Day parade on Wednesday, commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, which Russia refers to as the “Great Patriotic War.”

The event is traditionally held on May 9, but was rescheduled this year due to the Chinese coronavirus, which is still a major problem in Russia. The date was chosen because June 24 was the actual date of the first Russian victory parade.

The parade through Red Square in Moscow on Wednesday involved “about 14,000 troops, over 200 latest and WWII military hardware, and 75 aircraft,” according to Russia’s state-run Tass news service. 

Some of the soldiers marching in the parade wore World War II uniforms, carried period-appropriate weapons, and rode in vintage fighting vehicles. State-of-the-art military hardware was also on display, including S-400 anti-aircraft missiles and Yars mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles. This year’s Victory Day parade saw the public debut of a few new weapon systems, including the upgraded T-90M tank and Taifun-VDV remote-controlled combat vehicle system.

Russia invited 13 foreign militaries to participate as well, including China and India, currently at odds over a deadly military brawl on their mutual border.

“The banner-carrying group of the guard of honor battalion of the Preobrazhensky Regiment brought the Russian flag and the legendary Victory Banner, which had been hoisted over the Reichstag by the combatants of the 150th Idritsa division in 1945, to Moscow’s Red Square,” Tass reported.

The Red Square march was reviewed by a number of VIP guests from across the Russian Federation and its allies. The Kremlin expressed its understanding for invited guests who could not attend due to coronavirus travel restrictions. One of the guests, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan, was obliged to miss the parade because two members of his entourage tested positive for Covid-19.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the parade in which he said “it was our people that defeated the terrible, total evil” of Nazism. He declared the Russian people “paid an irreplaceable price for the freedom of Europe.”

“Our duty is to remember this and remember that the Soviet people bore the brunt of the struggle against Nazism,” Putin said, tactfully neglecting to mention that they also went on to bear the brunt of Joseph Stalin.

Putin and his VIP guests laid wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow and met with surviving veterans of the war. Afterward, Putin gave out Russia’s 2019 State Prizes for science, arts, and humanitarian activities, a ceremony normally held on Russia Day (June 12), but also postponed due to the coronavirus.

Victory Day parades were held in 28 cities across Russia, supposedly following a rigorous review to ensure they would not pose coronavirus risks to the health of participants or spectators.

The New York Times noted there were few masks in evidence at the Victory Day parades, not even for the elderly World War II veterans who met with Putin, even though Russia is still “hit hard by the coronavirus.” Both the older veterans and the thousands of soldiers who marched in tight formation during the parade were tested for the coronavirus and kept in quarantine beforehand.

“For Putin, the event is particularly significant this year as it falls ahead of a July 1 national vote on controversial amendments to the constitution that would open the door for the Russian leader staying in power until 2036. That vote had been scheduled for April 22 but was also postponed because of the pandemic,” Radio Free Europe (RFE) pointed out.

“Russia has reported 600,000 coronavirus infections, giving it the third-highest number in the world,” RFE reported. “Deaths stand at more than 8,000, but real numbers are believed to be much higher. Russia began lifting mass coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks, but new cases remain stubbornly high at above 7,000 a day.”

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