Russia mysteriously cancels flyovers across the country after parade falls flat

Spectators gather in Red Square after a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022 - Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
Spectators gather in Red Square after a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022 – Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Russia’s Victory Day parade in Moscow went ahead without a promised display of airpower in which warplanes were expected to do a flyover in a “Z” formation.

Aircraft rehearsing for Monday’s event had been seen flying in the “Z-shape”, which is also used to identify Russian armoured vehicles fighting in Ukraine.

But at the last minute, the Kremlin cancelled the planned display in Moscow due to “bad weather”. The explanation caused widespread bafflement as conditions in Moscow were neither rainy nor particularly windy or overcast. Similar displays in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Samara were also cancelled, prompting speculation that Russia was concerned about Ukrainian sabotage.

The scrapping of the air display added to a sense that Vladimir Putin’s much-vaunted May 9 Victory Day extravaganza was something of a damp squib.

The Russian president had been widely expected to make a full-scale declaration of war against Kyiv, which would entail a mass mobilisation of Russian citizens. Instead, Mr Putin issued no such orders – nor did he make any new threats to the territorial integrity of the Baltics or Finland, as some feared he might.

Russian servicemen pose after taking part in the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May
Russian servicemen pose after taking part in the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May

In the run-up before live coverage started, a computer hack of Russian broadcasters also led to millions of Russians receiving anti-war messages on their screens.

“The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of their children is on your hands,” the message read. “TV and the authorities lie. No to war.”

The Victory Day parade is held every year to celebrate the Soviet defeat of Hitler in World War II – a campaign Mr Putin claims he is now finishing off by mopping up “Nazis” in Ukraine.

As well as today’s huge turnout in Moscow, where battalions of soldiers marched past the Russian leader, smaller events were held in 28 other Russian cities, involving more than 60,000 participants in all. However, for all the pomp and ceremony, it should have been an even bigger event than it was.

Had Mr Putin’s invasion of Ukraine gone to plan, he would have had sister parades arranged in Kyiv today, put on by the Moscow-friendly government he intended to install.

Instead, with the Russian campaign in Ukraine faltering, even Ukraine’s pro-Russian breakaway republics of Luhansk and Donetsk – normally keenest parade-holders – had to cancel this year for security reasons.

Also cancelled was the planned parade in the Russian-captured city of Mariupol – most likely because it is far too bomb-damaged to be fit for TV screens.

Even Mr Putin seemed to lack his usual truculence, painting himself as the innocent party rather than aggressor.

Russia had had no choice but to invade Ukraine, he insisted, because the West was “preparing for the invasion of our land, including Crimea”. “That is absolutely unacceptable to us,” he declared.

The “heroic” Russian soldiers he had despatched to Ukraine, he insisted, were fighting the same Nazi enemies that their forefathers had battled at Stalingrad. The only difference was that these days, those “Nazis” were controlled by Nato rather than Hitler – which was also armed with atomic weapons.

“In Kyiv, they announced the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons,” he claimed – blithely forgetting he himself has been the main one delivering nuclear-tipped threats.

Yet by Mr Putin’s usual blood-curdling standards, this was something of a mild-mannered address.
For some Russians – and, of course, most Ukrainians – the speech will have been something of a relief.

Published by anthonyhayble

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