On Wednesday, Russia will hold its annual Victory Parade in Moscow, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II.
The parade is not only a national holiday, but also allows Russia to demonstrate to the world its military personnel and equipment. Moreover, however, this event is seen as a way for President Vladimir Putin to strengthen Russian patriotism and its power.
This year’s parade began during an unprecedented global health crisis, and the event had to be rescheduled from its original date, from May 9 to June 24.
Nevertheless, preparations for the parade are in Moscow and Russian Defense Ministry confirms It will be attended by more than 13,000 military personnel, 216 units of military equipment (from tanks to armored vehicles to rocket launchers) and will fly past 75 military aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters.
Russian political analyst Anton Barbashin told CNBC why the Victory Parade is so important to the Kremlin.
“The victory over Nazi Germany, of course, is the largest and most significant historical event for modern Russia. For the Kremlin, this is the most effective way to unite the different peoples of Russia, it is used to legitimize the Kremlin’s foreign policy aspirations and in general () Russia’s attitude to the status of a great power. Over the past decade, its significance has only increased, as the Kremlin monopolizes its legacy more and more, ”he told CNBC on Tuesday.
A Mil Mi-8 helicopter flies over Moscow during the dress rehearsal of the Victory Day air show on the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
This year’s parade was originally supposed to take place after a nationwide referendum that would give the public (supposedly) changes to the Russian constitution. This, among other things, would allow Putin the freedom to run for additional terms in the line of duty, possibly until 2036, when his current term expires in 2024. However, as in the case of the parade, public voting was postponed and will now take place in July 1.
Barbashin noted that the June 24 parade “was supposed to be the grand finale of Putin’s“ year of victory. ”
“The initial Victory Day was supposed to be a kind of holiday when a large number of foreign leaders arrived in Moscow, symbolically accepting the new constitution of Russia,” he said.
Public voting on constitutional amendments was rejected by political experts such as Barbashin, who stated that since the new constitution had actually been agreed by the Russian parliament, the public vote was purely “a symbolic endorsement of Putin’s continued rule, which should legitimize the new Russia.” Constitution for domestic and international audiences. “
Nevertheless, the parade is seen as a way to increase Putin’s sense of national pride and public support before the vote, especially at a time when his popularity ratings are down because the government is coping with the coronavirus crisis.
Putin seems to have taken a “crisis-free” approach to crisis management that has hit hard ordinary Russians and the economy; Russia ranks third in the number of cases of coronavirus in the world – today it is almost 600,000 cases. Experts saw the holding of the parade as a way to distract the Russians from the crisis, and localization measures in Moscow were canceled at the beginning of the month, possibly taking into account the upcoming parade.
Dara MacDowell, head of European and Russian chief analyst Verisk Maplecroft, admitted that the Victory Day parade “is rightfully an important, symbolically important holiday for the Russian people, as it is one of the few, uniquely positive achievements of the Soviet Union,” but said that the time of the parade “really serves a clearly distinguishable electoral purpose.”
“Currently, the damage caused to the economy and public health as a result of the pandemic, as well as the uneven response from the government, are clearly visible to most Russians, and there are signs that this is weakening Putin’s public support. The Victory Parade is an impressive sight, a visible demonstration of Russian military power, designed to evoke both national pride and respect for Putin’s reconstruction of a “strong” Russia that will circumvent the problems associated with Putin’s management of the domestic economy. ”
Sukhoi Su-34, Sukhoi Su-35S and Sukhoi Su-30SM fighters of the Lipetsk Aviation Center fly in formation over Moscow during the dress rehearsal of the Victory Day air show.
In normal times, Russia would use the parade as an opportunity to invite world leaders to Russia to participate in the event and impress, demonstrating Russia’s military power.
However, this year the outbreak of coronavirus bypassed this, and there is an abridged list of guests. The Russian Ministry of Defense states that 13 foreign government officials, mainly from the former Soviet republics and countries, allies with Russia, as well as the defense ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and India, who will take part in this event, as well as the presidents of Belarus and Of Serbia.
Western leaders, including President Donald Trump, French President Emanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, were invited to the event, but some canceled their participation in connection with the pandemic and the postponement of the parade.
T-90M tanks and MSTA-SM self-propelled howitzers are depicted before the final rehearsal of the Victory Day military parade on the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Barbashin said that the internal mood among the population, however, is far from festive, since in most Russian regions there is still a surge in new cases of coronavirus and an economic downturn caused by the outbreak.
The independent Levada Center regularly polls Russians for their opinions on the country’s leaders, Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. A telephone survey conducted at the end of May 1623 by adults showed that 59% approve of Putin’s actions as president and 34% do not approve, In February of this year, when the coronavirus pandemic was just beginning in Europe, in Italy Putin’s approval rating was 69%.