Russia celebrates Victory Day: what’s next?

This is on the agenda

Military parades today take place in 28 Russian cities (involving about 65,000 military personnel, 2,400 military vehicles and more than 400 aircraft), but the main focus is of course the military parade on Moscow’s Red Square. It starts at 10.00 local time (9.00 Belgian time) and you will be able to follow it live on our website.

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This year, about 11,000 soldiers divided into 33 groups – including veterans of the war in Ukraine – will take part in the parade in Moscow: a thousand fewer than last year, almost certainly a direct result of the current deployment of many troops. in Ukraine. Rumor has it that about 500 Ukrainian prisoners of war would also be forced to march past Putin and co, but that is unconfirmed information.

This is what the rehearsal of the parade in Moscow looked like. © Reuters

Intercontinental missiles and doomsday aircraft

There will also be 131 vehicles driving across the Red Square (last year there were 198). This ranges from simple jeeps and armored vehicles to anti-aircraft fire systems to the intercontinental ballistic missiles needed to fire nuclear weapons. That the missiles are displayed is no exception, but an annual habit, but of course a signal to the outside world in times when there is a fear of a nuclear war.

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77 aircraft and helicopters will then participate in flyover which ends the parade, including Ilyushin Il-80aircraft, nicknamed the “Doomsday Plane”, from which the Russian government could lead a nuclear war. Spicy detail: the planes would thereby form a ‘Z’, the letter that has come to symbolize the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

After the parade, President Vladimir Putin will give his long-awaited speech, and in the evening a large fireworks display will follow for the Muscovites.

Tanks rolled across Red Square on Saturday during the exercise. © EPA-EFE

What will President Putin say?

The rumor mill has been running for weeks, but no one can say for sure what Putin will say from the rostrum at Lenin’s mausoleum. For a long time, experts assumed he would declare victory in Ukraine on May 9, but the reality on the spot thwarted that plan.

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He then went on to say that he would declare war on Ukraine – officially in Russia now it is still only a ‘special military operation’ – as a stepping stone towards a general mobilization, but it was rejected over the weekend by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov . Nobody really knows.

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So far, we have to settle for the foretaste that Putin gave on Sunday in a message to the leaders of the separatist Ukrainian regions, in which he said that “victory will be ours as in 1945”.

Putin speaks to the Russians on May 9, 2016.

Putin speaks to the Russians on May 9, 2016. © AP

Why is this holiday so important in Russia?

May 9 commemorates the Russian conquest of Berlin and the surrender of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II. (That’s why today’s parade will also include T-34 tanks that were so important to the Red Army.)

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In Russia, that conflict is known as the ‘Great Patriotic War’, and with good reason: As many as 27 million Soviet citizens died during the war (including millions in Ukraine, by the way). That the country won the war in spite of the great losses is – in addition to the victory against it – Great Army of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812 – the greatest military victory in the country’s history. And a national source of pride, grief and irritation over a misjudgment of the victims from the West.

It has also been Russia’s national holiday since its independence in 1991. In the West, the victory over Nazi Germany is also commemorated on May 8, but when in Moscow it only happened after midnight due to the time difference, the victory in Russia is celebrated a day later.

© AP

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