Russia’s Victory Day celebrations scaled back over fears of attack

Security is being beefed up in Moscow and several Russian regions have announced they are scaling back this year’s Victory Day celebrations due to fears pro-Ukrainian saboteurs could target the festivities.

The holiday – marking the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany during the Second World War – is one of the most important in the Russian calendar, usually featuring a huge show of military hardware in a parade in Moscow and a speech from President Vladimir Putin.

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Russian security forces are working to ensure the Red Square parade on 9 May can go ahead safely, the Kremlin has said.

Russian energy, logistics and military facilities have been hit in drone and other attacks since Moscow launched what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Kyiv has not taken official responsibility for such attacks, but has often made cryptic or sarcastic comments welcoming them.

“We are of course aware that the Kyiv regime, which is behind a number of such attacks, terrorist acts, plans to continue its campaign,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“All our special services are doing everything possible to ensure security.”

“Most importantly, the special military operation is being conducted to root out threats to our country,” he added.

Security concerns have already prompted the nationwide cancellation of the Immortal Regiment civilian processions, where people carry portraits of relatives who fought against the Nazis.

Mr Putin and senior defence and military officials usually attend the Moscow parade – which in the past has included tanks, intercontinental missile launchers and marching troops, as well as a flyover.

Last year, the Russian president used his speech to justify the country’s military intervention in Ukraine, claiming it was a pre-emptive move to ward off aggression, accusing the West of “preparing for the invasion of our land, including Crimea”.

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The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said last month that leaders of several Russian regions bordering Ukraine, as well as Crimea, had announced their usually high-profile Victory Day military parades would be cancelled.

Some Russian cities further away from Ukraine confirmed they plan to go ahead with celebrations, the MoD said.

It added that “the different approaches highlight a sensitive communications challenge for the Kremlin”.

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“Putin couches the ‘special military operation’ in the spirit of the Soviet experience in World War Two,” the MoD said.

The message risks sitting increasingly uneasily with the many Russians who have immediate insights into the mismanaged and failing campaign in Ukraine.

“Honouring the fallen of previous generations could easily blur into exposing the scope of the recent losses, which the Kremlin attempts to cover up.”