Last year, there was great excitement associated with the prestigious Victory Day commemoration in Moscow. It seems that this year the Kremlin was relieved. Experts believe it is due to nerves in Putin’s system.
Victory Day on May 9 marks the victory of the Soviet Union over the Nazis during World War II. It was a widely popular day in Russian society, and at the same time it was widely used politically for Putin.
Anticipation of escalation
The Russian president usually organizes large military parades to celebrate victory.
Several Western intelligence sources and a wide range of experts predicted last year that Putin would use this very opportunity to declare an all-out war against the neighboring country, with full mobilization.
At the same time, other parties claimed that Putin would use that day to declare victory in the war.
None of these analyzes were successful.
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This year, the run-up to history looks different.
Russia’s independent newspaper Vjorstka, which is run from exile in Prague, reported that in the past 24 hours Russia had canceled the highly-prestigious celebration in 21 cities.
Already in April, it became known that the Victory Day parade in the Russian cities of Belgorod and Kursk, as well as in Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea, had been canceled for security reasons.
None of the country’s largest cities, such as Moscow or St. Petersburg, were among the 21 notified of the show’s cancellation.
However, Putin made his first public appearance after the annexation of Crimea at the Victory Day parade in Sevastopol.
– This is likely something Putin’s communication advisers think about a lot, senior researcher at NIBR-OsloMet, Jørn Holm-Hansen, tells Dagbladet.
– could resist
Holm Hansen points out that today is very important for Putin.
May 9 is traditionally the biggest day of celebration in Russia, because the victory over Hitler is something everyone can agree to be proud of. This day used to show strength through military parades, but this year it seems they’re tied in, says Holm Hansen.
Renowned think tank ISW (Institute for the Study of War) wrote in an analysis published Friday that the cancellation could be linked to fear of backlash in the population.
The ISW believes that Russia fears that a large parade will lead to discontent among the population at a time when a large number of Russian soldiers are dying in Ukraine.
– Holm Hansen says that a large number of Russians are becoming more aware of it.
– There is probably a little bit of nerve about this in the Kremlin now.
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He believes that Putin stands between several predicaments. On the one hand, it is necessary to show military power through parades.
Maybe they’re worried about appearing comical. More and more people in Russia are becoming aware of how bad this campaign went. Hawks in the media launched barbs at the defense leadership. But perhaps Putin is more worried about appearing cynical and thus turning people against him. Holm Hansen says many are in mourning after experiencing the deaths of loved ones on the battlefield or having family and friends in Ukraine lose their lives.
He believes that more and more Russians are now experiencing war closer to their daily lives.
– Last fall, many people began to fear general mobilization. He says it might have been a little wake-up call among the population.
Russia has been embroiled in wars for several years now, but there are several things that make an all-out invasion of its neighbor different.
– This war is closer than usual. It does not happen in a remote place like Syria. Nor is it done in such an elegant, quick and bloodless manner as the annexation of Crimea. He adds that there are no unclear responsibilities, as has been the case in Donbass since 2014.
The ISW believes the cancellation is related to the alleged drone attack on the Kremlin on Wednesday. Tankesmia believes this was orchestrated by the Kremlin as an excuse to cancel the festivities.
Putin has used a number of means to present the war in Ukraine as also existential for Russia’s citizens, they wrote in their analysis Thursday.
Retired Lieutenant General and former OSCE observer in Donbass, Arne Bord-Dalhough, for his part believes that the cancellation of the parades is about the fact that you do not have military forces to show it.
– They were sent to Ukraine, or killed on the battlefield. In an interview with Dagbladet TV on Friday afternoon, he said that the sections that carried out the rallies last year are more or less gone.
Where in previous years the parade was an occasion for Putin, Dalhough believes this year’s May 9 celebration will be uncomfortable for the Kremlin.
– I think there’s been a lot of discussion about how to solve this in a way that it doesn’t become problematic, he says.
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