The annual parade, which commemorates the end of World War II in Europe, is generally held on May 9. Putin had originally planned a grand celebration, inviting world leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping to join him.
But like many public events around the world, the event was postponed for fear of coronaviruses. The Kremlin delayed the event after a letter from veterans organizations expressed concern about the health risks that such an event could present.
Many foreign leaders decided to stay away from the rescheduled event, but leaders from several former Soviet states attended on Wednesday, including Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been a prominent skeptic of coronavirus.
This year’s audience in Red Square has dropped significantly, with every two to three seats empty for separate groups of guests. Crowds gathered outside the square to watch the tanks enter despite calls from Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin to stay home and watch him on television.
Putin is surrounded by veterans who had to be quarantined for 14 days at a health center outside Moscow, the Kremlin said.
The parade itself has been expanded. In total, more than 14,000 soldiers participate in this year’s ceremony in Red Square, according to the official announcer.
This year’s parade also features international contingents, with the participation of troops from India, Mongolia, China and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, among others.
The Russian army previously said they were isolated for testing and had been tested for coronavirus.
Last week, Putin published an article in the American magazine National Interest highlighting Russia’s efforts to reclaim moral ground in the years leading up to the start of World War II. He echoed that sentiment in a speech at the parade, saying, “We will always remember that it was the Soviet people who defeated Nazi Germany … and it is hard to imagine what would have happened to the world if the Red Army had not arrived. to your rescue. “
Only “unity”, Putin added, can help the world combat threats in the future.
The parade is particularly significant for the President this year as it pre-empts a national vote on controversial changes to Russia’s constitution that would effectively restore his count of presidential terms and could pave the way for him to remain in power until 2036.
That vote was originally scheduled for April 22, but was also postponed due to the coronavirus.
Russia is still reporting around 7,000 new cases a day, with a total number of confirmed cases totaling 606,881, according to the country’s coronavirus headquarters.
Moscow lifted most of its restrictions before the parade, but many cities across the country that normally host local parades chose to cancel or maintain them without a spectator.