Virus Forces Putin to Postpone WWII Victory Anniversary Parade

(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin postponed all of Russia’s public celebrations on May 9 of the World War II victory, including the Red Square military parade, conceding that the coronavirus pandemic had defeated his plans for a grand commemoration to mark the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

“We will force the threat we face today to retreat and then we will definitely hold all the events planned for May 9,” Putin said via videoconference at a meeting of the Security Council on Thursday. The annual parade involving thousands of troops and displays of military hardware including tanks and nuclear-missile launchers as well as a fly-past by the air force, will be held later in the year along with other planned events, Putin said, without specifying a date.

Putin had put particular emphasis on this year’s landmark anniversary, issuing invitations to leaders of Western allies during the war to join him on Red Square even as they continue to sanction Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea. French President Emmanuel Macron accepted Putin’s invitation. Large-scale rehearsals of the parade by Russia’s military had already been taking place outside Moscow.

Putin had also sought to capitalize on the anniversary by calling on leaders of the other four permanent members of United Nations Security Council -- China, the U.S., the U.K. and France - to join him in a summit meeting on threats to international stability.

The global coronavirus pandemic and the spread of the pathogen in Russia forced Putin into a rethink. He warned earlier this week that the deadly infectious illness had yet to reach its peak in Russia, striking a more pessimistic tone than in the past.

“We have a lot of problems. There is nothing to boast about, and we must not let our guard down,” Putin said. Russia on Thursday registered 3,448 new cases of the virus in the past 24 hours to a total of 27,938, with 232 deaths.

The annual victory commemoration of the war, which claimed the lives of 27 million Soviet citizens and is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, is traditionally an occasion for the government to rouse the nation.

The Red Square parade held later in the year will still be “grandiose and large-scale,” according to Putin ally Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the upper house of parliament.

The postponement from May is “a tough decision, but an unavoidable one,” said Sergei Markov, a political consultant to the Kremlin. “It would have been a chance to consolidate society at a very difficult time.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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