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Russia Prepares For An Aseptic Victory Parade, Still Attentive To The Coronavirus

Russia Prepares For An Aseptic Victory Parade, Still Attentive To The Coronavirus

Today is a historic day in Russia. For the first time the Victory parade is not celebrated on May 9th.

The coronavirus has forced the military parade to be postponed and the Kremlin has sought another historical date, June 24, because that day in 1945 the first parade was held in Red Square of the troops that defeated Nazi Germany in the Second World War. 

It will also be a strange day, because although the Covid-19 pandemic is receding in Moscow, it is still active in other regions. In about twenty of them, where the parade had also been scheduled, it has been suspended as a precaution.

But this year's parade had to be historic for other reasons. And it is 75 years since the victory against Hitler. The Kremlin was interested in taking advantage of this fact to show the world the role of the USSR in the fight against Nazism. 

"It is essential to pass on to future generations the memory that the Nazis were defeated first and foremost by the Soviet people." 

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote last week in a long article entitled The True Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II and published in the American magazine The National Interest. The parade is also of interest to Putin because it is only a week before the constitutional referendum, which should allow him to remain in power until 2036. And the act is a way to mobilize the vote.

Victory in the Great Patriotic War (as it is known here) is part of the patriotic DNA created in recent decades. And Moscow has complained on several occasions that, despite the 27 million deaths (civilians and military) in that contest, Western countries do not recognize the contribution of the Soviets to the end of Nazism.

The coronavirus has disrupted the Kremlin's plans. The May 9 parade was scheduled to be attended by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, or the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. 

Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, no Western leader has been seen in the parade. Foreign leaders who have confirmed their attendance on the new date have not numbered ten, and most are from ex-Soviet countries allied to Moscow.

Today 14,000 soldiers parade through the center of the Russian capital. According to Defense Minister Sergey Shoigú, all have developed immunity to Covid-19. So they are not likely to wear a mask, the most fashionable garment today.

A part of the soldiers will attract attention today, but because they wear uniforms that remind those who in 1945 wore the victorious troops that brought the stolen banners to the enemy.

But due to stubborn reality, the Red Square rostrum will not be as crowded as in other years. According to Interfax, the guests have had to certify that they are not sick with coronavirus.

"Veterans will sit one every two seats, allowing you to remove your mask and watch the parade without it." 

Said Anna Popova, head of the Rospotrebnadzor public health agency. Some 80 former World War II combatants, who will traditionally meet Putin, have lived for two weeks before the parade in isolation in a rest house in Moscow province. According to Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov, the goal was to preserve the health of the elderly.

No one escapes that there is concern that Putin may be infected. Last week it emerged that several disinfectant tunnels have been installed in the Kremlin and at his residence in Novo-Ogariovo, on the outskirts of Moscow, for anyone who will meet him. 

"Any security measure is justified as regards the head of state." 

Said Peskov.

The number of infected in Russia was approaching 600,000 yesterday. The figure is the third highest in the world (behind the US and Brazil), which the Russian authorities attribute to an also high number of tests carried out, 17.5 million. But the number of deaths remains low (8,359), when compared to the most affected countries.

Although the pandemic is rending the fear of an outbreak, it is evident. Sergey Sobianin, the mayor of Moscow, advised Muscovites to enjoy the parade from home on television.

 "We have pushed back the epidemic, but the virus is still dangerous." 

Putin warned yesterday in his latest message to Russian citizens.

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