(LONDON) — Russia’s Victory Day parade is meant to be a projection of President Vladimir Putin’s military might. But this year, it was effectively the opposite.
The military parade in Moscow’s Red Square on Tuesday was a significantly shrunken version of itself — thinned out due to Russia’s huge losses in Ukraine and its urgent need for equipment on the front lines. Analysts noted there was seemingly only one heavy tank in the entire parade this year — a World War II-era T-34 museum piece that led the procession. Instead, the parade was almost exclusively light armored vehicles, similar to Humvees.
There appeared to be approximately 50 military vehicles taking part in the Victory Day parade in Moscow on Tuesday. That’s compared to 130 during the 2019 parade.
The flypast part of the event, which usually involves helicopters and fighter jets, was cancelled on Tuesday despite clear, sunny skies in the Russian capital. But perhaps what was most notable was the cancelling of the parade in at least 24 Russian cities due to security concerns that Ukrainian forces might be able to strike them, likely because of Russia’s shortages of troops and equipment.
Meanwhile, Putin delivered his annual Victory Day speech during the parade in Moscow’s Red Square on Tuesday, which was fairly standard. As he has done in previous remarks, Putin claimed that the Ukraine war was “unleashed” on Russia and blamed “Western global elites” while calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a puppet. He also directly compared his ongoing war in Ukraine to the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, which is what Victory Day commemorates. He claimed that Russia was fighting for “civilization” “once again” and painted a topsy-turvy picture that Moscow wants peace with all nations.
“Today, the civilization is once again at a decisive, turning point and an actual war has been unleashed against our homeland again,” Putin said. “But we fended off international terrorism, we will protect residents of Donbas too and ensure our security.”
Putin’s speech made clear once more that the Russian president has no intention of negotiating currently or scaling back his ambitions to defeat Ukraine.
On Monday, Zelenskyy announced that he was moving the date of Ukraine’s own Victory Day celebration and renaming it Europe Day. He signed and submitted a draft law to the Ukrainian Parliament that moves the holiday to May 8, which is the date when the rest of the Western allies mark the World War II victory over the Nazis.
The Ukrainian president also compared the current war to the allied efforts to defeat the Nazis.
“We will not allow lies as if the victory in that war could have taken place without the participation of any country or nation. As then we destroyed evil together, so now we are destroying a similar evil together,” Zelenskyy said. “Unfortunately, evil has returned. Although now it is another aggressor, the goal is the same — enslavement or destruction. And just as then we relied on the joint strength of free nations, so now we fight against evil together with the free world, together with free Europe. And we will prevail! It will be the Day of our victory.”
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