Russian President Vladimir Putin has addressed his country’s Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square, claiming that “a real war” has been unleashed against Russia — a reference to the war in Ukraine that the Kremlin portrays as being a proxy conflict with the West.
“Today civilisation is once again at a decisive turning point,” Putin said. “A real war has been unleashed against our Motherland.”
The Russian leader appeared after claims a body double would be sent in his place for security reasons.
According to former deputy minister at the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko, Putin’s “fears” of an attack during the parade are high.
He said: “Putin will not dare to appear at the parade, but will send a double.
“Real fears for his life will force Putin to sit in a bunker, sending another double [onto Red Square].
“A drone strike on the Kremlin on May 3 further heightened Putin’s fears. Now the chances that he, and not some character playing his role, will participate in the parade, are equal to zero.”
Russia enacted a major security clampdown ahead of Tuesday’s annual commemorations marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, curbing the use of drones and ride-sharing services in its largest cities — even jet skis on the canals of St. Petersburg — amid its 14-month war with Ukraine.
At least 21 Russian cities cancelled May 9 military parades — the staple of Victory Day celebrations across Russia — for the first time in years, Russian media said.
Regional officials blamed unspecified “security concerns” or vaguely referred to “the current situation” for the restrictions and cancellations. It was not clear whether their decisions were taken in coordination with the Kremlin.
Moscow is expected to project a show of force during its flagship parade on Red Square, with top-notch military equipment rumbling through it and leaders of ex-Soviet nations standing beside President Vladimir Putin.
Initially, only one of them — Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov — was expected to attend, but at the last minute on Monday officials confirmed that leaders of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were heading to Moscow as well.
The pared-down celebrations come after ambiguous official reports last week that two Ukrainian drones flew into the heart of Moscow under the cover of darkness and reached the Kremlin before being shot down. The Kremlin billed it as an attempt at Putin’s life; Ukraine denied involvement.
The celebrations come as Russia unleashed a barrage of cruise missiles on Ukraine overnight into Tuesday, hours before the start of Moscow’s annual commemorations celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, which this year is taking place amid tight security measures.
The Kremlin’s forces launched 25 missiles overnight in a wave of attacks across Ukraine, the Ukrainian air force said, adding that air defence had successfully destroyed 23 of them.
In a Telegram post, the air force said eight Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from carriers in the Black Sea toward the east and 17 from strategic aircraft.