Putin watches single tank drive down Red Square in scaled-back Victory Day Parade
Vladimir Putin watched a single World War Two tank roll through Moscow as part of a scaled back Victory Day parade in which he claimed war had been unleashed on Russia.
The T-34, an 83-year-old relic, has traditionally opened the annual display of military might because of its symbolic role in helping Russia overcome Nazi Germany.
However, the Soviet-era tank is normally accompanied by more modern fighting machines in a full display of Moscow’s military might.
This year’s parade had a total of 51 vehicles in comparison to 131 last year and 197 in 2021, according to analyst Oliver Alexander.
Today’s parade included 10 armoured vehicles which are only used by Chechen forces.
Western analysts have suggested the decision to limit the parade was likely made to conceal the losses suffered by Russia’s armed forces since the invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
Russian officials, however, said the event would be scaled back after Ukraine was accused of an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin in a bid to assassinate Vladimir Putin. Kyiv has repeatedly denied any role in the apparent assault.
Mr Putin used his Victory Day speech to accuse the West of waging war on Russia, telling columns of troops on Red Square that Russia must defend itself from ‘”international terrorism”.
Victory Day, that Russia marks on May 9, has always been the moment to mourn the colossal military and civilian losses that the Soviet Union sustained in the Nazi invasion.
But the Russian president this year used the platform to launch an angry tirade about Russia’s protracted invasion.
Standing on stage on Red Square, surrounded by elderly veterans and young officers, Mr Putin lashed out at the West, saying a “real war has been unleashed against Russia” and sought to portray Ukraine as a “hostage” of the West and its “neo-Nazi” allies.
He said that Russia’s future “rests on” soldiers fighting in Ukraine.
“There is nothing more important now than your combat effort,” the Russian president said, addressing troops fighting in Ukraine, some of whom were present at the parade.
He continued: “The security of the country rests on you today, the future of our statehood and our people depend on you.”
As part of the scaled back parade, Russia scrapped the traditional fly-past.
Questions about security were raised after a daring drone attack on the Kremlin last week.
Moscow is believed to have lost 3,734 tanks, according to Ukrainian government figures since Mr Putin ordered his troops across the border.
Last year, the traditional T-34 was accompanied by a T-14 Armata and a T-74, two of Russia’s more modern battle tanks, which have both been spotted on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Russia has desperately been attempting to plug its shortfall of tanks by taking older models out of deep storage to send across the border.
Just 10 different weapons systems were on display during the military parade on Tuesday, while the aerial portion, which usually features fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, was cancelled entirely, according to local media reports.
Russia at Tuesday’s parade deployed the smallest number of troops since 2008.
Just 8,000 troops marched across Red Square —that’s less than at the Victory Day parade in 2020, which was held six week later because of a raging Covid pandemic. Last year, 11,000 troops took part in the parade in Moscow.
Last year the Russian ministry of defence announced that 131 different types of weapons were involved, with an airshow of 77 aircraft and helicopters.
But usually viewers could expect to see over 200 military vehicles, including tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, as well as the Russian air force, on display.
“Putin has presided over the greatest and swiftest military collapse Russia has known in recent history,” Michael Horowitz, a geopolitical and security analyst, said.
Shortly after Mr Putin’s speech, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said a prosperous Ukraine inside the European Union will be the strongest possible rejection of “imperialist” Vladimir Putin’s “brutal aggression”.
“In Moscow Putin is parading his soldiers, tanks and artillery. Let’s not be intimidated. Let’s stand firm in our support for Ukraine as long as necessary,” Mr Scholz said on May 9, which is Europe Day, as well as the day Russia celebrates victory in World War Two with a military parade in Red Square.
“I don’t think any of us wants to go back to a time when the law of the jungle reigned in Europe, when small countries had to bow to large countries, when freedom was a privilege of a few rather than a fundamental right for everyone.”
Russia launched a large missile attack against Ukrainian cities overnight, the fifth air attack so far this month.
The Ukrainian air force said it intercepted 23 of 25 missiles fired at the country, most of them launched by Russian strategic bombers from the Caspian Sea region.
In Dnipro in central Ukraine loud explosions were heard at about 10 PM as air defence systems engaged incoming missiles.
Authorities later said eight missiles had been fired at the region, seven of them at the city itself. Fragments of one missile struck the roof of a four storey apartment block and penetrated as deep as the third floor, badly damaging several homes. One woman was taken to hospital with spinal and brain injuries.
The warhead was found unexploded on the third floor and made safe by bomb disposal teams before being removed, local authorities said. About 40 people were evacuated from the building.
Falling debris fell on a house in the Holosiivskyi district in the southwest of Kyiv, Kyiv’s Mayor Vitalii Klitschko said on his Telegram messaging channel, adding there were no casualties nor much damage.
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