Victory Day is one of the most important days of in the Russian calendar, but 2023’s event will happen under the shadow of a Kremlin drone attack, derailed trains and more than a few mysterious fires.

 Despite the Kremlin’s plans for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine not going to plan, President Putin has sought to portray his country as safe and stable, with any physical threats to the Russian people being far away and confined to the battlefield in Ukraine.

 But, over the last few months, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain this optimism, as attacks on Russian-occupied territories and Russia itself have increased in frequency, culminating last week with the mysterious drone attack on the Kremlin.

 Against such an uncertain backdrop, Russia is stepping up security in Moscow ahead of its May 9 World War II Victory Day celebrations in the city.

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 Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week: "Of course, everything will be strengthened. Everything has already been strengthened in preparation for the Victory Day parade.”

What is Victory Day?

 Victory Day is a celebration of the Soviet Union's victory over Germany during World War II. The holiday pre-dates Putin’s rule by decades, but has become particularly important during his time in power.

 Since becoming president in 2000, Putin has encouraged the building of a cult-like status around the 1945 Soviet victory over the Nazis, using it to stoke patriotism in Russia, solidify his support and present himself as the legitimate heir of Soviet power.

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"It is the only 'glue' that unites the nation," Andrei Kolesnikov, of the Carnegie Centre, recently told AFP.

 "Now, the holiday is doubly important," he added, “because it is crucial to Putin to once again to insert the simple, but crazy, idea into the public conscience that his 'special operation' [in Ukraine] is a continuation" of the war against Hitler.

 The Kremlin continues to use the memory of the Soviet war effort to justify its offensive in Ukraine, claiming it is fighting "fascists" supported by the West.

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 What form does the commemoration normally take?

 The main event is a massive military parade on Red Square, where Russia flexes its muscles in front of the world and shows off its latest weapons. Smaller but no less patriotic events and parades take place in almost every city, town and village across the country.

 

A regular feature of the celebration is the “Immortal Regiment”, in which people march through the streets carrying pictures of relatives and loved ones who died in the service of their country.

We’ll come back to the “Immortal Regiment” later…

 What will it look like this year?

 It will be very different indeed. Parades have been cancelled entirely in at least 21 cities.

 Citing security reasons, parades were cancelled in Kaluga, Ryazan, Orel, Saratov, the city of Gusev in the Kaliningrad region, Lipetsk and Yelets, as well as Tyumen, which is located at a considerable distance from the front.

 In Pskov and Velikiye Luki, the authorities fear not only for security, but also for "moral and ethical aspects." According to Governor Mikhail Vedernikov, a lot of military personnel come to the region for rehabilitation, who "perceive the sounds of fireworks in a completely different way," and the funds "that are laid down for fireworks can be spent on the most necessary for the participants of their own."

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 In Kursk, they decided not to hold a parade, "taking into account the current situation," and in Belgorod — in order "not to provoke the enemy with a large number of accumulations of equipment and military personnel" in the city center.

 What about the main event in Moscow?

 It’s still on, for now, although security has been beefed up and a couple of key features will be missing.

 On Victory Day, the President traditionally greets veterans in the Kremlin, delivers a speech and presents awards. This has been cancelled this year.

 And back to the “Immortal Regiment” which has also been shelved.

 "As such, there will be no usual [procession] format. We decided to expand the traditional format so that we honor the memory of the heroes throughout the day," Olga Baibulova, the press secretary of the movement, told Interfax.

 While this decision will be a blow for those wanting to honor the memory of their fallen relatives, it does have a benefit for the Kremlin as it avoids the possibility of marchers arriving with photos of those killed on the special military operation and, thereby, providing a very visual and hard-hitting reminder of just how many Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine – something Putin and his regime have yet to actually acknowledge.

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Comments (2)

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Lepke Buchalter
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If they parade everything they stole from Ukraine, there's going to be lots of toilets in the parade.

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Jeff In Canada
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I think that it would be imperative that someone send at least one drone over the Kremlin square, to bomb some of the military equipment (that is, if there is any left that is not in Ukraine). This would totally put a hamper on Putin, and draw more attention to war in Ukraine.

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