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Russia’s scaled-back Victory Day parade

Russia’s annual celebration to commemorate the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in 1945 took place this week, but events were scaled back ostensibly over security fears.

On the surface, Russia’s Victory Day parade “may have seemed like business as usual”, reported Sky News. “But the numbers tell a different story.”

In advance of the celebrations this year, at least six Russian regions cancelled their parades out of fear of attacks from Ukraine. 

Only 50 military vehicles joined the procession, which was a quarter of its usual size, and there was no traditional airforce flyover for the second year running. The parade was led through Red Square in Moscow by a single tank – “a far cry from the usual display of military might”. 

Russia’s forces have suffered significant losses since the invasion of Ukraine in February last year, with more than 20,000 soldiers killed in the past five months according to US intelligence estimates. 

Considering Russia’s losses, “the amount of military equipment on display was always likely to be underwhelming”, wrote Dominic Nicholls, associate editor of The Telegraph.

The “vast majority” of Russia’s military equipment is in Ukraine, much of it “in pieces”. Certainly, President Vladimir Putin’s speech “was the usual fire-breathing stuff”, but like the parade “it was full of bluster but short on detail”, Nicholls wrote. “It was all a bit of a damp squib.”

Victory Day is “the most significant day of Putin’s calendar”, said CNN, “as he has long used it to rally public support, demonstrate the country’s military prowess and rail against the historical injustices he perceives Western nations have heaped on his nation”.

The muted celebrations this year “highlight how Putin’s cult has laid the groundwork for its own defeat”, wrote Maximilian Hess, from the Foreign Policy Research Institute, for Al Jazeera. Other eastern European countries, like Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria, “have also abandoned communist-era Victory Day celebrations on May 9 and instead mark it on May 8, along with fellow EU states”.

Putin is “not only losing any claim to the mantle of Victory Day, but handing it to those opposed to his regime”.

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Soldiers dance as part of Victory Day in Moscow

VCG/Getty Images

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Russian servicewomen march in the Victory Day parade in Moscow

VCG/Getty Images

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Putin was mocked as only one antique tank featured in the parade

VCG/Getty Images

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The US estimates that 20,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine this year

VCG/Getty Images

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Putin and leaders of former Soviet states lay flowers in the Kremlin

Alexey Maishev/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

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Vladimir Putin gave an anti-West speech on Victory Day

Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

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