Putin to mark Victory Day emboldened by Ukraine gains

General |Author: AFP | May 9, 2024, Thursday @ 08:12| 1991 views

An elderly man places flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the WWII memorial on the Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism in World War II, in Kyiv, on May 8, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Roman PILIPEY / AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin will address the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow on Thursday, an event he hopes will rally patriotism as his forces advance in Ukraine.

The May 9 parade marks the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II and has become one of Russia's most important public holidays under Putin.

The Russian president has repeatedly framed the current fight against Ukraine as an existential battle against "Nazism".

The Kremlin leader typically uses his May 9 speech to shower his troops and army veterans with praise, as well as show off Russia's military hardware to audiences he hopes will be watching from around the world.

The parade takes place on Red Square, featuring columns of Russian military equipment, including advanced missiles and air defence systems, as well as thousands of military personnel dressed in ceremonial attire.

Russia often invites representatives from countries it deems "friendly" to the event, though attendance had dwindled even before it sent troops into Ukraine amid a stand-off with the West.

Eight world leaders will attend Thursday's parade, Russian state-media reported this week, citing a Kremlin aide.

They are the heads of five ex-Soviet countries -- Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan -- as well as the leaders of Cuba, Laos and Guinea-Bissau.

In a high-profile snub, Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has signalled he will not attend amid a spat between the two allies, even though he was in Moscow on Wednesday evening for a regional summit.

The Kremlin scheduled a summit of leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union -- a regional bloc of some ex-Soviet states -- the day before the parade.

Putin will deliver this year's address buoyed by his troops' advances in Ukraine and a fresh six-year mandate in office after winning elections in March devoid of opposition.

Russia's army held off a much-hyped Ukrainian counter-offensive last year, and it has since made gains on the front lines as Kyiv struggles with ammunition and manpower shortages.

- 'Victory' -

Authorities in the capital have heightened security ahead of this year's parade, which comes amid a spate of Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian territory.

The parade, which starts at 10:00am (0700 GMT) in Moscow, is one of the largest events of the year in the Russian capital.

Night-time rehearsals take place weeks in advance, swathes of central Moscow are closed off for the military traffic, and huge scaffolding and banners are erected along the walls of the Kremlin on Red Square

Other parts of Russia, including the western Kursk and Pskov regions, have cancelled their parades due to security concerns.

The festivities come two days after Putin vowed at a lavish inauguration on Tuesday to deliver "victory" to Russians, embarking on a record-breaking fifth term with more power than ever.

Putin's 87-percent landslide victory in the presidential election was panned by most international observers and dismissed as rigged by opposition and rights groups.

Putin has also upped his nuclear rhetoric, earlier this week ordering the Russian military to hold nuclear weapons drills involving the navy and troops based near Ukraine.

Last year Russia ditched its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and pulled out of a key arms reduction agreement with the United States.

© Agence France-Presse


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