MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday set a new date for a grand Red Square military parade he had been forced to postpone over the novel coronavirus despite Russia still reporting thousands of new infections each day.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference call with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia May 26, 2020. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS
The parade, meant to originally occur on May 9, is designed to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, and its raw display of military strength and patriotism has become a hallmark of Putin’s rule.
In power as president or prime minister for more than two decades, Putin personally reviews the parade every year, and its postponement, along with that of a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms that could extend his rule until 2036, was seen as disrupting his political agenda.
Speaking on state television on Tuesday, Putin told Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to begin preparations to hold the parade in Moscow and other Russian cities on June 24.
“I order you to ensure the strictest security standards while preparing for the parade. The risks for all participants must be kept to a minimum, and better excluded (altogether),” said Putin.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence said in April it had ordered thousands of troops involved in rehearsals for the original parade into quarantine.
Putin said the new date of June 24 would fall on the anniversary of a military parade by Soviet forces across Red Square in 1945. After the announcement, the presidents of Kazakhstan and Moldova said they would attend.
Putin’s decision to go ahead with the event in June comes as Russia, which has the third highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, is battling to contain its spread.
The tally of confirmed cases rose to more than 362,000 on Tuesday after officials reported 8,915 new cases. They said 174 people had died over the last 24 hours, bringing the overall death toll to 3,807.
Daily increases in nationwide infection numbers have fallen somewhat however, particularly in Moscow, the epicentre of the crisis, and authorities say the large number of infections being reported is due to a massive testing programme.
Putin said a separate Victory Day street event in which thousands of residents march together holding up portraits of veterans, which had also been postponed, would be held on July 26.
Additional reporting by Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty and Anastasia Teterevleva in Moscow; Editing by Andrew Osborn