Russia’s Victory Day parade gave a “strong indication” of the state of Vladimir Putin‘s military equipment, according to expert observers. The parade this year appeared shorter and much more pared-back than usual as it was described as “one of the smallest in Russian history”. Only some 8,000 troops marched in Red Square this year — the lowest number since 2008. Even the parade in 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, featured some 13,000 soldiers, and last year, 11,000 troops took part.
Unlike in previous years, there was no fly-over of military jets, and less equipment was on show in the parade. The event, unusually, lasted less than an hour.
Posting a clip of the parade on Twitter, advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Anton Gerashchenko noted: “The parade in Moscow didn’t have any modern tanks, infantry fighting vehicles or aviation. It was one of the smallest in Russian history, taking less than 10 minutes.
“There was one T-34 tank that took part in WWII. No Iskanders, Armata tanks, aviation. The walking part of the parade mainly consisted of cadets and students of military universities, not military staff.
“Russian MoD hasn’t published any information about the parade’s participants, unlike in previous years.”
Echoing his comments, Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St Andrews, Phillips P. O’Brien said: “A pretty strong indicator of how much modern equipment Russia has left in stock.”
Russia also enacted a major security clampdown for the commemorations. Authorities curbed the use of drones and ride-sharing services in Moscow and even jet skis on the canals of St Petersburg.
Russian media counted 24 Russian cities that canceled May 9 military parades — the staple of celebrations across Russia — for the first time in years.
Regional officials blamed unspecified “security concerns” or vaguely referred to “the current situation” for the restrictions and cancellations.
The Immortal Regiment processions, in which crowds take to the streets holding portraits of relatives who died or served in World War II — another pillar of the holiday — have also been canceled in multiple cities. Some speculated, that the reason for this was not security but the fact that Russians might bring portraits of relatives who died in Ukraine to those processions, illustrating the scale of Russia’s losses in the drawn-out conflict.
The Red Square guest list was also light amid Putin’s broad diplomatic isolation over the war. Initially, only one foreign leader was expected to attend this year’s parade — Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov. That was one more foreign guest than last year, when no leaders went.
At the last minute on Monday, officials announced that the 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.
Speaking at the parade, Putin said the West’s “untamed ambitions, arrogance and impunity” are driving “a real war” against Russia, while the Kremlin’s forces fired another cruise missile barrage at Ukraine.
He said: “Today civilisation is once again at a decisive turning point. A real war has been unleashed against our Motherland.”
Putin praised soldiers taking part in the war in Ukraine and urged Russians to stand together.
He said: “Our heroic ancestors proved that there is nothing stronger, more powerful and more reliable than our unity. There is nothing in the world stronger than our love for the motherland.”