Ukraine’s has mocked Russia’s Victory Day parade by pointing out Putin’s use of one “lonely” tank rolling down Russia’s Red Square. Only some 8,000 troops marched in Red Square this year — the lowest number since 2008. Even the parade in 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, featured some 13,000 soldiers, and last year, 11,000 troops took part.
In a video released after the Russian celebrations, the Ukraine Ministry mocked the “loneliest little tank in the world”.
They said: “This ‘Victory Day’ Russia had exactly one tank rolling down Russian Red Square.
“A T-34, first produced in 1940. To the loneliest little tank in the world, best of luck.”
Unlike in previous years, there was no fly-over of military jets, and less equipment was on show in the parade. The event, unusually, lasted less than an hour.
Posting a clip of the parade on Twitter, advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Anton Gerashchenko noted: “The parade in Moscow didn’t have any modern tanks, infantry fighting vehicles or aviation. It was one of the smallest in Russian history, taking less than 10 minutes.
“There was one T-34 tank that took part in WWII. No Iskanders, Armata tanks, aviation. The walking part of the parade mainly consisted of cadets and students of military universities, not military staff.
“Russian MoD hasn’t published any information about the parade’s participants, unlike in previous years.”
Russia also enacted a major security clampdown for the commemorations. Authorities curbed the use of drones and ride-sharing services in Moscow and even jet skis on the canals of St Petersburg.
Russian media counted 24 Russian cities that cancelled May 9 military parades — the staple of celebrations across Russia — for the first time in years.
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Regional officials blamed unspecified “security concerns” or vaguely referred to “the current situation” for the restrictions and cancellations.
It comes as President Vladimir Putin declared on Tuesday that the West has unleashed “a real war” against Russia, reprising a familiar refrain at scaled-down Victory Day celebrations that may reflect the toll the Ukraine conflict is taking on his forces.
Putin’s remarks came just hours after Moscow fired its latest barrage of cruise missiles at targets in Ukraine, which Russia invaded more than 14 months ago. Ukrainian authorities said air defences destroyed 23 of 25 missiles launched.
The Russian leader has repeatedly sought to paint his invasion of Ukraine as necessary to defend against a Western threat. Kyiv and its Western allies say they pose no such threat and that Moscow’s war is meant to deter Western influence in a country that Russia considers part of its sphere of influence.
The Kremlin’s forces deployed in Ukraine are defending a front line stretching more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles), presumably thinning the ranks of troops available for such displays.
Keir Giles, a Russia expert at London’s Chatham House think tank, said: “This is supposed to be a showpiece for Russian military might. But so much of that military might has already been mauled in Ukraine that Russia has very little to show on its parade in Red Square.”
As a display of military hardware it was “very underwhelming,” said Michael Clarke, visiting professor of war studies at King’s College London, noting that the T-34, the iconic World War 2 tank, was the only tank on display. “Normally they show off all the really modern stuff, and they didn’t have any of those. Nor did they seem to have armoured fighting vehicles. … So there was nothing new on display.”
Meanwhile, the traditional Immortal Regiment processions, in which crowds take to the streets holding portraits of relatives who died or served in World War II — a pillar of the holiday — were cancelled in multiple cities.