Guard of honor at the Eternal Flame on the Red Square in Moscow by Anastasiya Romanova on Unsplash

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

As Russia’s coronavirus cases exceeded 600,000 Wednesday morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted the country’s traditional military parade to celebrate Victory Day. The parade, delayed since May 9 due to the coronavirus outbreak, marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. On Tuesday, the Kremlin said they expected officials from about 10 countries and several international organizations to attend the parade, noting they understand why other leaders might not be able to attend. Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov did not attend after two of his aides tested positive for coronavirus. Over 20 Russian cities canceled their own parades, citing coronavirus concerns, while other major cities moved forward with theirs. Large gatherings are still banned in Russia.

Troops from Russia, China, India, and former Soviet republics, over 14,000 in total, marched through the Red Square in Moscow, many without facemasks. The majority of WWII veterans that watched the event with President Putin, now in their 80s and 90s, also did not wear masks. President Putin ordered his defense chiefs to put coronavirus prevention measures in place, including quarantining his veteran guests for two weeks prior to the parade. Groups attending the parade at Red Square sat separated by two or three seats. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin urged spectators to watch the spectacle from home rather than crowding the streets, despite lifting the city’s lockdown earlier this month. 

The parade comes a week before Russians will vote on constitutional amendments that would allow President Putin to stay in power past 2024 when his current term will end. The Kremlin hopes the parade will help bolster support for the referendum. Political analyst Anton Barbashin noted the new constitution, in essence, had already been agreed on by the Russian Parliament, with the vote acting as a “symbolic approval of Putin’s prolonged rule that should legitimize Russia’s new constitution for both domestic and international audiences.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Russia holds Victory Day parade in face of coronavirus fears and popular bewilderment – The Independent – 6/24/2020
This year’s ceremony, likely to be the last major anniversary for surviving veterans, was initially billed as a major international event. That changed when hospitals began filling up with Covid-19 pneumonia in April and the Kremlin — reluctantly — cancelled. For Mr Putin, it was an obvious, personal disappointment.

Putin Hails Nazi Defeat in Virus-Delayed Red Square Parade – Newsmax – 6/24/2020
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the defeat of Nazi Germany at the traditional massive Red Square military parade in Moscow, which was delayed by more than a month because of the invisible enemy of coronavirus. The parade is usually held May 9 on Victory Day, Russia’s most important secular holiday, but was postponed until Wednesday due to the pandemic. But the timing allowed Russia to mark another significant war-era event — the 75th anniversary of the Red Square parade by troops returning home after the Nazis’ defeat.

Putin, having stayed safe behind Kremlin walls, declares victory over COVID-19 – NBC News – 6/24/2020
After months of coronavirus-related setbacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to preside Wednesday over a long-awaited military blowout to celebrate 75 years since Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II. But as Russia emerges — perhaps prematurely — from almost three months of lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus, the parade has taken on additional meaning for the Kremlin: as a declaration of victory over the virus itself and a turning point in Putin’s reign.

Ahead of constitutional reform vote, two-thirds of young Russians think Vladimir Putin should step back from power – The Conversation – 6/24/2020
Russians will head to the polls in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic between June 25 and July 1 for a national referendum on changes to the country’s constitution. Ahead of the poll, our initial findings from an ongoing survey of 3,000 young, urban Russians found they associate the referendum primarily with the social guarantees that are also being promised, such as a minimum wage, rather than changes to the country’s political structure, notably the presidency. Asked whether Vladimir Putin should step back from any leadership position, more than two-thirds of our respondents think that he should.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Shakthi Vadakkepat on Twitter, 6/24/2020: Russia’s WWII victory parade in the time of coronavirus means masks will join the tanks and troops through the iconic Red Square

Pamela Falk on Twitter, 6/24/2020: #Russia @KremlinRussia_E PresPutin parade to celebrate the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany, sidelining virus concerns to galvanize voters ahead of a key referendum @RussiaUN

William Booth on Twitter, 6/24/2020: For Russians, Victory Day is the nation’s most emotional holiday and evokes triumphant memories of wartime heroism darkened by the cruel sacrifice of 27 million Soviet citizens who died in the Great Patriotic War. (So basically good for Putin).

Kenneth Roth on Twitter, 6/24/2020: What’s more important: fighting the surging coronavirus infections in Russia or holding a military parade. With a vote on his quest for a perpetual presidency due in a week, Putin opts for the military parade.

Lucian Kim on Twitter, 6/24/2020: Putin is a TV president. The cinematic effect of the Victory Day parade is as important as the procession itself.

Gerry Conway on Twitter, 6/24/2020: You just know Trump watched this and squirmed with envy.

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