MOSCOW (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the defeat of Nazi Germany during the traditional massive military parade in Moscow’s Red Square, which was delayed by more than a month due to the invisible enemy of the corona virus.
The parade is usually held on May 9 on Victory Day, Russia’s most important secular holiday, but was postponed to Wednesday due to the pandemic. But the timing enabled Russia to mark one more important war-era event: the 75th anniversary of the Red Square parade by troops returning home after the defeat of the Nazis.
“It is impossible to imagine what would have happened to the world if the Red Army had not stood up for its defense,” Putin said in a parade speech.
About 14,000 soldiers took part in the parade, including units from several former Soviet republics and from Mongolia and Serbia.
More than 230 military vehicles drove across the vast square in the Russian capital, ranging from famous World War II T-34 tanks to colossal Topol intercontinental ballistic missile launchers. A viaduct of helicopters, bombers and fighters completed the action of military force.
It is estimated that 27 million Soviets died in the war, either on the battlefield or as civilian casualties. Their courage and suffering have become the key to Russia’s national identity.
“It was our people who could overcome terrible, utter evil,” said Putin. “This is the most important, honest, by no means unclear truth about the war. We must protect and defend it, pass it on to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. ‘
Putin and other Russian officials have often expressed outrage at what they see as other countries’ attempts to “rewrite history” by downplaying the role of the Soviets in World War II.
The appeal to Russian patriotism comes at an important time for Putin, with an early vote beginning Thursday in a referendum on constitutional changes that would allow him to run for president twice, possibly until 2036.
Putin made no mention of the coronavirus pandemic in his speech and tacitly reinforced his allegation the previous day that Russia has passed the most dangerous phase of the pandemic. However, Russia has reported more than 7,000 new contamination cases daily this week and has the third highest confirmed number of infections in the world after the United States and Brazil.
Many spectators in the viewing booths wore masks, but Russian soldiers in close formation in the square did not. Putin and other dignitaries on the main stage also did not wear masks.
Those dignitaries included older war veterans with rows of medals running across their chests. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that all veterans present had quarantined before the event.
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