The war in Ukraine has prompted authorities across Russia to curtail annual celebrations of the country’s most important national holiday, Victory Day, with more than 20 cities suspending military parades and organizers canceling a popular nationwide parade to honor soldiers.
Security concerns were largely cited for the cancellation of Tuesday’s events, but some analysts suggested the unrest was related to fears of domestic disturbances.
Parades commemorating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, President Vladimir V. It is an unprecedented step in a country that has become Putin’s signature event.
Over the years, he has cast the day not only as a celebration of a historic victory, but also for Russia’s present-day need to defeat the Western powers he says are trying to destroy it. More recently, he has tried to weave Ukraine into that narrative, misrepresenting it as a Nazi reenactment.
The country’s largest parade, outside the Kremlin in Red Square, is expected to be a typical display of military might, with rows of carefully choreographed soldiers marching amid weapons ranging from ancient tanks to intercontinental ballistic missiles. Mr. Putin will also address the nation.
But outside Moscow, recent drone strikes against military or infrastructure targets in cities such as Sevastopol in Crimea, the home port of the Black Sea Fleet, and other attacks in regions bordering Ukraine have given authorities pause. Last week Mr. With two drones destroyed over Putin’s office, not even the Kremlin is immune.
In announcing the cancellation, various regional governors cited “security concerns”. They generally did not go into details, but the governor suggested that in Belgorod, on the border with Ukraine, slow-moving military vehicles and marching soldiers could call out targets.
“There will be no march without provoking the enemy with the mass of equipment and soldiers concentrated in the center of Belgorod,” said Governor Vyacheslav Kladkov. “The refusal to hold the march is related to the safety of the residents of the region.”
Several regions have banned drone flights during the events, and the Readovka news agency on Telegram reported that anti-drone weapons were provided to National Guard units.
Igor Artamonov, the governor of Ukraine’s neighboring Lipetsk region, said his decision should not be misunderstood.
“We are not afraid, we are not raising our hands,” he wrote in a telegram. “No neo-Nazi filth can destroy the Great Victory Day. But we have no right to put people in danger. It is clear to everyone that the parades are held at strictly defined times in strictly defined squares.
Perhaps the most significant change was the cancellation of the nationwide “Immortal Regiment” parade, when ordinary Russians took to the streets to display images of their veteran predecessors. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the parade was canceled as a “precautionary measure” against possible attacks.
Some governors said they did not want to gather large numbers of people in the midst of war. But some analysts have suggested the Kremlin may be nervous that putting large crowds of Russians on the streets at such an inconvenient time could lead to civil unrest, even with Russia’s strict wartime laws against protests.
Analysts said revealing the scale of the toll the government is trying to hide could be especially volatile if thousands of people show up alongside pictures of the latest war casualties. Some portraits of soldiers killed in Ukraine were carried during last year’s celebrations, but the number was much lower in the two months since the fighting began.
“People don’t come out with portraits of their grandfathers,” said Elvira Vikhareva, a political activist. wrote on Facebook. “People come out with portraits of their fathers, sons and brothers. The Legion does not become ‘immortal’, but becomes very mortal, and the size is visible.
Whatever the reason, Russian officials are trying to promote an alternative, suggesting that people upload portraits to a special website or stick portraits of their predecessors on their vehicles and apartment windows.
Some local leaders far from Ukraine said they were canceling their marches in solidarity with the frontline regions. In the Pskov region, home to a famed paratrooper unit ravaged by war and implicated in possible war crimes, Governor Mikhail Vedernikov said the sound of fireworks would disturb rescuers and money should be better spent. requirements.
Other regions planned to go ahead with celebrations, but on a smaller scale. In St. Petersburg, for example, there will be no Air Force Overpass.
Some pro-war bloggers argued that the men and equipment traditionally featured in multiple parades were more effective at the front and improved the complex war effort.
Governor Vedernikov suggested a twist, saying, “We should not celebrate victory, but do everything possible to bring it closer.”
Milana Mazeva And Alina Lobzina Contributed report.