Red Square to mark victory

Source:AFP Published: 2020/6/22 19:03:40

Russian soldiers, wearing face masks and gloves to protect against coronavirus, walk to the Red Square before the rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, Thursday. Russia is preparing for a military parade on June 24 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory against the Nazis in World War II. Photo: Xinhua

Thousands of Russian troops will march in Moscow on Wednesday as President Vladimir Putin brushes off virus fears to host a World War II commemoration ahead of a crucial vote on his rule.

The military display on Red Square to mark 75 years since the Soviet victory in World War II had been scheduled for May 9 but the Kremlin postponed it citing requests from veterans, as coronavirus cases shot up.

Putin rescheduled the event as soon as lockdown measures eased, keen to move on from an outbreak that has hit his country hard.

With more than 8,000 recorded fatalities and around 580,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections, Russia has the pandemic's third largest caseload after the US and Brazil. The parade coincides with the anniversary of the first post-war parade on Red Square, which saw Soviet troops throw down Nazi standards in front of the Lenin mausoleum on June 24, 1945.

It comes just a week ahead of a national vote on constitutional amendments that would allow Putin, in power since 2000, to reset his term-limit clock to zero and stay in the Kremlin until 2036.

The parade will be Putin's first major appearance in public since the pandemic, after he attended an open-air flag-raising ceremony on June 12.

The 67-year-old will survey a display of modern military might involving over 13,000 troops, with more than 20 items of hardware on show for the first time including Tosochka flame-throwers, T-90M tanks and Buk-M3 surface-to-air missile systems.

Vintage vehicles such as the workhorse T-34 tank will also be on display and some troops will wear World War II uniforms.

Putin, whose 2-year-old brother died as Nazis encircled Leningrad, has sought to associate his regime with the most revered aspect of the Soviet era: wartime victory.

Ahead of the parade, he slammed the West for "insulting Russia" by playing down the USSR's role in winning the war.

While Putin has pushed for the parade, some have voiced fears over the risk of infection, with mass public events still formally banned in Moscow. The event will see troops from 13 countries including China and India marching and more than 200 military vehicles rolling down central streets.

More than a dozen Russian cities and regions have opted not to hold parades on the same day, citing virus risks, although events will go ahead in cities including Saint Petersburg and Volgograd.

Showing jitters, both Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov have advised people to watch it on television rather than attend in person.

At rehearsals, troops were wearing masks and rubber gloves but they will not do so on the day, an army source told AFP.
Newspaper headline: Putin to host Russia WWII parade ahead of vote


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