Tanks and missiles are rolling down Moscow’s streets again as Russia prepares to commemorate Victory Day Monday.
The annual event celebrates the Soviet Union’s 1945 victory over the Nazis in World War II, known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia, but has also become a commercial showcase for the Russian munitions industry to advertise its latest weapons and hardware to the entire world. Approximately 40,000 Russian service members are expected to march in military parades across 26 cities, the Moscow Times reported.
Kremlin-backed media report that the military equipment making its debut in Red Square this year will include the Su-35S fighter jet and Ratnik personal combat uniforms. The T-14 Armata tank, armored personnel carriers, Kurganets infantry fighting vehicles and Koalitsiya-SV guns will also be on display.
Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, many foreign leaders chose not to attend last year’s 70th anniversary parade in Moscow. Russian state media reported that the Kremlin has not issued special invitations this year.
“The parade will be held in the usual regime; the foreign guests will attend, but no special invitations from the president have been extended,” said presidential aide Yuri Ushakov.
Victory Day took on outsize importance in Putin's Russia. It marks WW2 suffering, but also glorifies modern exploits pic.twitter.com/WMzkWMgkyS
— Michael Birnbaum (@michaelbirnbaum) May 5, 2016
This year’s parade comes at another moment of high tension as Russian planes buzz U.S. Navy warships in European waters and enter the airspace of Baltic nations. NATO’s military buildup in Eastern Europe has also upset Russia, with the Kremlin announcing Wednesday that it would create three new army divisions to reinforce its western and southern forces.
Lithuania’s foreign minister said no diplomat from his country would attend this year's commemoration in Moscow, the Baltic Times reported.
“At a time when Russia's military aggression against Ukraine is ongoing, we don’t think that participation in military parades is the appropriate way to show respect, even if it is to war veterans,” said Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius.
— CCTVNEWS (@cctvnews) May 5, 2016
The war in eastern Ukraine that began in April 2014 has pitted the Kiev government's troops against Russian-backed separatists and killed more than 9,300 people. Ukrainian media reported that Russian tanks have been crossing the border in preparation for Victory Day parades in the rebel cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.
As part of the traditions of Victory Day, flower wreaths are laid outside of the Kremlin for “Hero Cities” to honor 12 cities that fought and sacrificed in the Soviet war effort against the Nazis. Russian bloggers noticed this year that no wreath was laid in honor of Ukraine's capital, Kiev.
— Janek Lasocki (@JanekLasocki) May 5, 2016