In pictures: Victory Day is marked in Russia’s Red Square

The pride and patriotism usually associated with Russia’s most important holiday, marked by a huge parade of soldiers and military hardware through Moscow’s Red Square, is mixing with apprehension and unease over what this year’s Victory Day may bring.

t first glance, preparations for Monday’s celebration of Victory Day, marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, seem to be the same as ever.

Red Soviet flags and orange-and-black striped military ribbons are on display in Russian cities and towns.

Neighbourhoods are staging holiday concerts.

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Russian Iskander-M missile launchers drive in Red Square during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Sputnik via REUTERS

Flowers are being laid by veterans’ groups at monuments to the Great Patriotic War, as the Second World War is known in the country.

But the mood this year is very different, because Russian troops are fighting and dying again.

And this battle, now in its 11th week, is going on in neighbouring Ukraine, against what the government has falsely called a campaign against “Nazis”.

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Russian Tigr-M (Tiger) all-terrain infantry mobility vehicles and Yars intercontinental ballistic missile systems drive in Red Square during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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Russian President Vladimir Putin watches a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

“I can’t remember a time when the May 9 holiday was anticipated with such anxiety,” historian Ivan Kurilla wrote on Facebook.

Ukraine’s intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said Moscow was covertly preparing such a plan.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told LBC Radio that Mr Putin was “laying the ground for being able to say, ‘Look, this is now a war against Nazis, and what I need is more people’”.

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Russian T-14 Armata tanks drive in Red Square during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The Kremlin denied having such plans, calling the reports “untrue” and “nonsense”.

Asked by the Associated Press on Friday whether mobilisation rumours could dampen the Victory Day mood, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “nothing will cast a shadow” over “the sacred day, the most important day” for Russians.

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Russian service members march during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Still, human rights groups reported a spike in calls from people asking about laws concerning mobilisation and their rights in case of being ordered to join the military.

“Questions about who can be called up and how have started to flow on a mass scale through our hotline about the rights of conscripts and the military,” said Pavel Chikov, founder of the Agora legal aid group, on the messaging app Telegram.

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A Russian S-400 missile defence system drives in Red Square during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

Russian state TV has ramped up the patriotic rhetoric.

In announcing the February 24 military operation, Mr Putin declared it was aimed at the “demilitarisation” of Ukraine to remove a perceived military threat to Russia by “neo-Nazis”.

A recent TV commentary said Mr Putin’s words were “not an abstract thing and not a slogan” and praised Russia’s success in Ukraine, even though Moscow’s troops have got bogged down, making only minor gains in recent weeks.

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Girls wearing the Red Army styled uniform react after a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Ukraine, which has a democratically elected Jewish president who lost relatives in the Holocaust, and the West have condemned the remarks as a fictitious cover for a blunt act of aggression.

But many Russians fed a steady diet of the official narrative have cheered on their troops, comparing them to “our grandfathers” who fought the Germans.

Popular support in Russia for the war in Ukraine is difficult to gauge in a country that has seen a steady crackdown on journalists in recent years, with independent media outlets shut down and state-controlled television providing a pervasive influence.

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Russian honour guards march during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the Russian Land Forces Oleg Salyukov walk after a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

A recent poll by the respected independent Levada Centre found that 82pc of Russians remain concerned by the military campaign in Ukraine.

The vast majority of them – 47pc – are worried about the deaths of civilians and Russian soldiers in the war, along with the devastation and suffering.

Only 6pc of those concerned by the war said they were bothered by the alleged presence of “Nazis” and “fascists” in Ukraine.

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Girls wearing the Red Army styled uniform react after a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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Russian service members take part in a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

“A significant part of the population is horrified, and even those who support the war are in a permanent psychological militant state of a perpetual nightmare,” said political analyst Andrei Kolesnikov in a recent commentary.

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A T-34 Soviet-era tank drives in Red Square during a parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

A government campaign encouraging support for the military is using the distinctive black-and-orange St George’s ribbon that is traditionally associated with Victory Day.

The letter “Z” has become a symbol of the conflict, decorating buildings, posters and billboards across Russia, and many forms of it use the ribbon’s colours and pattern.

Rallies supporting the troops have taken place in recent days at Second World War memorials, with participants singing wartime songs from the 1940s.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin watches a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

One official has suggested that Victory Day marchers display photos of soldiers now fighting in Ukraine.

Normally on the holiday, Russians carry portraits of their relatives who took part in the Second World War to honour those in the so-called Immortal Regiment from a conflict in which the Soviet Union lost a staggering 27 million people.

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/in-pictures-victory-day-is-marked-in-russias-red-square-41630775.html In pictures: Victory Day is marked in Russia’s Red Square

Fry Electronics Team

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