Victory Day parades in Russia typically see throngs of people lining the city’s main thoroughfares, cheering on passing tanks, armored personnel carriers and S-400 anti-aircraft systems and, spectator favorite, the fearsome intercontinental ballistic missile YARS capable of delivering a doomsday nuclear payload across the globe.
The flyover is another highlight, with the final flourish still the tricolor Russian flag trailing in the sky.
But it was no normal VE Day.
The public was not allowed to approach it.
This time around the only real viewing potential was if you were inside Red Square and it’s by invitation only.
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Reduced VE Day parade in Russia compared to previous years
Normally, foreign media are accredited to film there too, but not this year.
Muscovites could watch the parade as it rolled out of Red Square, but there weren’t many to speak of.
Just over 50 pieces of military equipment, the only exposed tank was the historic WWII T-34 ‘Victory Tank’. The entire journey took just five minutes, as the air show was canceled long before VE Day itself.
The onlookers we met, once they had finally found a viewing point, seemed optimistic about the reduced schedule.
“It makes sense because a lot of vehicles are needed in Ukraine,” Artyom told us.
“This year, they did everything with tact”
This reflects the tone of Russian nationalist telegram channels.
“I must confess that I was afraid that tanks and armored personnel carriers, so necessary in the war zone, would drive through Red Square,” wrote well-known military correspondent Alexander Kots. “But this year they did everything with tact.”
Granted, it’s usually the more patriotic who bother to get up in the morning to see what they can of the VE Day parade, but the mood we encountered was distinctly sour towards foreign media.
“You are just propaganda”, “you want to say terrible things about our president” and “tell the truth” were just some of the comments directed at us. We hear it more and more.
So many people wholesale bought the Kremlin narrative
It’s usually the older generations who don’t care how outspoken they are.
It’s because so many people have bought into the wholesale narrative of the Kremlin.
“It’s all the stuff from the United States and Ukraine,” Andrei of Rostov said, holding back the swear words. “Our grandfathers should have finished them off better, in 1945, so that it doesn’t happen now.”
Many young Russians refuse to speak
Young Russians tend to be more cautious.
Many refuse to speak. A couple told us that they would be expelled from their university if they did.
Another woman said she felt militarism had no place in the 21st century given the war in Ukraine and other terrible things.
I asked her if she was afraid to call it a war.
“It’s not legal but that’s the name of what’s going on,” she replied. We have not released his response.
‘Whether [Ukraine] could do it on the same scale, they would
Artyom listed the three assassination attempts that have seen nationalist figures targeted and killed since The death of Daria Dugina last summer.
There was another car bomb over the weekend in which well-known writer Zakhar Prilepin was targeted, although it was his companion in the car who was killed.
Artyom was angry that Ukraine and its Western allies were not bothered by these attacks.
When I suggested it might be due to the scale and frequency of Russian missile and UAV strikes on Ukrainian targets, he said the Ukrainians were also bombing Russian cities, in places like Belgorod.
“It’s not quite the same scale, is it?” I asked.
“If they could do it on the same scale, they would,” was the reply.