Crimean authorities have almost canceled Victory Day events «due to security considerations.» according to state mediaafter a series of apparent Ukrainian drone attacks on military bases and fuel depots on the annexed peninsula that kyiv is determined to recapture.
“It is better to take precautions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, adding that “one way or another, citizens will celebrate this holiday.”
But the war is becoming increasingly aware of a population that the Kremlin has worked to isolate from its realities.
«That’s a country clearly on the edge,» Michael A. Horowitz, head of intelligence at consultancy Le Beck, told NBC News. “When President Putin steps up to the podium, everyone will have the image of drones attacking the Kremlin in their minds. .”
However, the pomp and pageantry will continue to be displayed in Moscow, where tanks and missiles are traditionally joined by soldiers for the parade through Red Square.
Since the Soviet era, Victory Day has held enormous sentimental value to Russians as it honors the sacrifice of 27 million people in the fight against Nazi Germany.
But in the decades of Putin’s rule, the Kremlin has weaponized that memory, using it to demonstrate its military might and send a strong message to its adversaries, rather than focusing solely on the memory.
Putin often invokes the Soviet victory to stoke patriotism and justify his invasion of Ukraine, which he baselessly claims is led by a Western-backed Nazi government in an attempt to annihilate Russia.
The black and brown ribbon of Saint George, adopted by Russia as a symbol of remembrance almost 20 years ago, has been used and worn by Russian forces and officials operating in Ukraine.
«Victory Day is central to the Putin narrative,» Horowitz said. «In the mind of the Russian president, Russia is still engaged in a long battle against ‘Nazism’ that stretches from 1941 (handily bypassing Russia’s own agreement with Nazi Germany beforehand), until today.»
It’s a narrative Putin will likely repeat in an attempt to rally the public behind his «special military operation,» but this is also the second Victory Day Russia has celebrated without major battlefield victories in Ukraine.
Russian forces have intensified their assault on the Ukrainian defenses in the small eastern town of Bakhmut.
Russia was expected to want to claim symbolic victory in time for Victory Day, but fierce opposition and Moscow’s own military shortcomings mean the brutal fighting has only increased a sense of fragility that will be hard to avoid amid the Tuesday celebrations.
“Putin will have nothing to say,” Abbas Gallyamov, a Russian political analyst and former Putin speechwriter who fled the country, wrote on Telegram ahead of the parade. «There is no victory in sight, and without a victory, what kind of Victory Day is that?»
Underlining this, Ukraine took another symbolic step to distance itself from the Kremlin.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday that he had signed a decree to commemorate Nazi Germany’s defeat on May 8, in line with its Western allies. May 9, Zelenskyy said, will be an occasion to commemorate what he called «Europe Day,» which the countries of the European Union brand as a day of peace and unity on the continent.
The move was quickly criticized in Russia.
“By canceling Victory Day on May 9, he betrayed his ancestors once and for all,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, while Moscow-appointed Crimean leader, Sergei Aksyonov, called Kiev’s decision “vile but expected”. .