Russia’s President Vladimir Putin observes before the Victory Day military parade on Red Square marking the 75th anniversary of victory in World War II June 24, 2020 in Moscow, Russia.
Russia celebrates its annual Victory Day parade in Moscow on Wednesday, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s capitulation in World War II.
In addition to a national day of celebration, the parade allows Russia to showcase the reach of its personnel and military equipment to the world. However, more than that, the event is seen as a way for President Vladimir Putin to cement Russian patriotism and its power base.
This year’s parade comes during an unprecedented global health crisis, and the event had to be rescheduled from its original date, May 9, to June 24.
However, preparations for the parade have been taking place in Moscow and the Russian Defense Ministry confirms that more than 13,000 military personnel are participating in the parade which will include 216 units of military equipment (ranging from tanks to armored vehicles and rocket launchers) and a flying pass with 75 military aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters.
Russia’s political analyst Anton Barbashin told CNBC why the Victory Day parade is so important to the Kremlin.
“Victory over Nazi Germany is by far the largest and most significant historical event for contemporary Russia. For the Kremlin it is the most effective way of uniting various peoples of Russia, it is used to legitimize the foreign policy aspirations of the Kremlin and generally (the) Russian attitude towards great power status. In the last decade, its importance only increased as the Kremlin has increasingly monopolized its legacy, “he told CNBC on Tuesday.
A Mil Mi-8 helicopter flies over Moscow during the dress rehearsal of the Victory Day air show marking the 75th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
This year’s parade originally would have come after a national referendum that would have given the public a voice (apparently) about the changes to the Russian constitution. This would allow, among other things, Putin the freedom to run for new terms, possibly until 2036, when his current term ends in 2024. However, like the parade, the public vote was postponed and will now take place on July 1 )
Barbashin noted that the June 24 parade “was supposed to be the grand finale of Putin’s own” victory year “.
“The original Victory Day was supposed to be a kind of celebration with a large number of foreign leaders coming to Moscow, symbolically accepting the new Russian constitution,” he said.
Parade formations before the Victory Day military parade on Red Square marking the 75th anniversary of victory in World War II June 24, 2020 in Moscow, Russia.
The public vote on the constitutional amendments has been dismissed by political experts such as Barbashin, who said that since the new constitution had already been effectively agreed by the Russian Parliament, the public vote was a purely “symbolic” approval of the prolonged Putin government that should legitimize the new government of Russia. ” constitution for national and international audiences “.
Still, the parade is seen as a way to increase sentiment of national pride and public support for Putin ahead of the vote, particularly at a time when his popularity ratings have declined due to the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. .
Putin is considered to have taken a “hands-free” approach to handling the crisis that has harshly affected ordinary Russians and the economy; Russia has the third highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, with almost 600,000 cases to date. Holding the parade was seen by experts as a way to distract Russians from the crisis, and closure measures in Moscow were lifted earlier this month, possibly with the next parade in mind.
An additional sweetener also occurred on Tuesday when Putin announced more financial support measures for families, cut taxes for the IT industry and raised income tax for those who earn more.
Daragh McDowell, head of Europe and Russia’s chief analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, acknowledged that the Victory Day parade “is an important and symbolically important holiday for the Russian people, as it represents one of the few unequivocally positive achievements of the Union Soviet, “but said the timing of the parade” serves a clearly discernible electoral purpose. “
“Currently, the damage to the economy and public health from the pandemic, and the uneven response of the government, is clearly visible to most Russians and there are indications that public support for Putin is being undermined. Victory is an impressive spectacle, a visible spectacle Demonstration of Russian military power designed to invoke both national pride and respect for Putin’s reestablishment of a ‘strong’ Russia, thus avoiding concerns about the management of the national economy by part of Putin. “
The Sukhoi Su-34, Sukhoi Su-35S and Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets from 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 attend the event and impress as it shows Russia’s military might.
However, the coronavirus outbreak has paid off that year, and there is a shortlist of guests. The Russian Defense Ministry says 13 foreign state officials will attend the parade, mostly from former Soviet states and nations allied with Russia, with Defense Ministers from Armenia, Azerbaijan and India attending the event, among others, and presidents of Belarus and Serbia. Putin was seen waving to dignitaries with handshakes early Wednesday.
Western leaders, including President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been invited to the event, but a number canceled their attendance due to the pandemic and the rescheduling of the parade.
T-90M tanks and MSTA-SM self-propelled howitzers are displayed before the dress rehearsal of the Victory Day military parade marking the 75th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Barbashin said the domestic mood among the public, meanwhile, is generally far from being celebrated, as most Russian regions still experience spikes in new coronavirus cases and the economic downturn caused by the outbreak.
The independent Levada Center regularly polls Russian adults on their opinion of the country’s leaders, Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. A telephone survey conducted in late May with 1,623 adults showed that 59% approved Putin’s actions as president, while 34% disapproved. In February of this year, when the coronavirus pandemic was just beginning to emerge in Europe, in Italy, Putin’s approval ratings stood at 69%.
Verisk Maplecroft’s McDowell noted that Putin’s announcement on Tuesday of more support measures for Russian citizens was “designed to combat the impression that the Kremlin is primarily interested in protecting the economic” oligarchy “rather than the Russians.” ordinary. “It remains to be seen if it will work.”