Sat. May 25th, 2024

Russian President Vladimir Putin has planned to address the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow on Thursday, an event he hopes will rally patriotism as his forces advance in Ukraine.

The May 9 parade marks the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II and has become one of Russia’s most important public holidays under Putin.

The Russian president has repeatedly framed the current fight against Ukraine as an existential battle against “Nazism”.

The Kremlin leader typically uses his May 9 speech to shower his troops and army veterans with praise, as well as show off Russia’s military hardware to audiences he hopes will be watching from around the world.

The parade takes place on Red Square, featuring columns of Russian military equipment, including advanced missiles and air defence systems, as well as thousands of military personnel dressed in ceremonial attire.

Russia often invites representatives from countries it deems “friendly” to the event, though attendance had dwindled even before it sent troops into Ukraine amid a stand-off with the West.

Eight world leaders will attend Thursday’s parade, Russian state-media reported this week, citing a Kremlin aide.

They are the heads of five ex-Soviet countries — Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — as well as the leaders of Cuba, Laos and Guinea-Bissau.

In a high-profile snub, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has signalled he will not attend amid a spat between the two allies, even though he was in Moscow on Wednesday evening for a regional summit.

The Kremlin scheduled a summit of leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union — a regional bloc of some ex-Soviet states — the day before the parade.

Putin will deliver this year’s address buoyed by his troops’ advances in Ukraine and a fresh six-year mandate in office after winning elections in March devoid of opposition.

Russia’s army held off a much-hyped Ukrainian counter-offensive last year, and it has since made gains on the front lines as Kyiv struggles with ammunition and manpower shortages.

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