MOSCOW, Russia — Russia on Saturday held its final rehearsal for an annual parade marking the Soviet victory in World War II, where its military might will be showcased amid Moscow’s deadly war on Ukraine.
To mark the 77th anniversary of victory in what Russia calls the Great Patriotic War, thousands of soldiers will march across the Red Square in the Russian capital followed by tanks, armored vehicles and missile launchers.
Monday’s Victory Day parade comes on the third month of what Russia calls its “military operation” in Ukraine despite predictions of a swift victory.
Some troops who have participated in the war took part in Saturday’s rehearsal, indicating that they’ll take part in Monday’s parade, the state TASS agency reported.
It was also reported that some 500 Ukrainian prisoners of war could be “forced to go through Red Square for cameras,” according to a report by The Times, citing the Ukraine-based Center for Defense Strategies.
The parade became an annual event after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and has gained prominence during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two decades in power as a display of military muscle.
Like every year, Putin is expected to deliver a speech at the parade. Some Western officials say he may declare an all-out war on Ukraine or announce mobilization across the country.
The Kremlin has dismissed this as “nonsense.”
Since sending troops into Ukraine on February 24, Russia has said it aims to “de-Nazify” the country. The term is loaded in Russia, the successor of the Soviet Union, which lost 20 million people in the war against Nazi Germany.
This past week, Israel and Russia got into a diplomatic tiff following a claim by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Adolf Hitler had Jewish heritage, in an attempt to explain the “de-Nazification” aim for Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish.
Israel — along with many Western nations — harshly criticized Lavrov for comments he made in an interview to Italian media claiming that “Hitler also had Jewish blood” and that “some of the worst antisemites are Jews.”
In a phone call Thursday, Putin apologized to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for the remarks.
According to Russia’s defense ministry, 77 aircraft will participate in the flypast on Monday, including the rarely-seen Il-80 Doomsday plane that is capable of withstanding a nuclear attack.
Eight Mig-29 fighter jets will fly over Red Square forming the letter Z — a symbol of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
On the ground, Russia will be displaying its nuclear-capable hardware, including the Yars intercontinental nuclear missiles and Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems.
The Kremlin said no foreign leaders were invited to attend the parade as it was “not a jubilee year.”
Also on May 9, parades take place on a smaller scale in dozens of cities across the nation as well as the so-called “Immortal Regiment” march, which involves people carrying photos of veterans or family members who died in the war.
This year, participants of the processions are also encouraged to bring photos of those who died fighting in Ukraine.