Vladimir Putin has delayed celebrations for the 75th anniversary of Victory Day due to the coronavirus outbreak, rescheduling a patriotic holiday with major political significance.
In remarks on Thursday evening, Putin said that “the risk connected to the epidemic, the peak of which has not passed, are still dangerously high. And that doesn’t give me the right to begin the preparations for the parade and other mass events.”
The holiday is usually observed on May 9th with a military parade including soldiers, tanks and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The government has also recently adopted an event called the Immortal Regiment where hundreds of thousands of ordinary
Russians march bearing images of relatives who died in the war.
Putin did not set a new date for the parade, but promised it would take place in 2020.
The Kremlin was also expected to host French President Emmanuel Macron this year in a politically significant visit that Russia hoped to portray as confirming its exit from isolation.
Putin announced the decision on Thursday after veterans associations submitted a similar request to him, in what was likely a politically choreographed show to justify pushing back the holiday.
The coronavirus epidemic has upended a busy political season in Russia, with the Kremlin already pushing back plans to hold a national plebiscite to endorse constitutional amendments that will allow Putin to run twice more for the presidency, potentially staying in office until 2036.
Earlier, a video purporting to show thousands of Russian troops taking part in rehearsals for the country’s Victory Day parade has raised questions about the Kremlin’s efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus in the armed forces.
Video purportedly of Russian troops at the Victory Day Parade rehearsals in Alabino who aren’t quite meeting the 1.5 meter social distancing requirement instituted by local officials