Health Desk- 25 June, 2020: Putting to one side Russia’s unfinished battle against the coronavirus, President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday celebrated his country’s victory 75 years ago against Nazi Germany, presiding over an enormous military parade through Red Square that featured thousands of soldiers marching shoulder-to-shoulder without face masks.
The parade, the largest of several celebrations taking place nationwide, was originally scheduled for May 9, a joyous annual holiday known as Victory Day, but was delayed for six weeks by the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak continues to grow in Russia — the world’s third hardest-hit country, with nearly 600,000 cases — but at a slightly slower pace than before.
Aging veterans in their 80s and 90s joined Putin on the reviewing stand, nearly all of them without masks, to watch 14,000 troops march in tight formation to stirring martial music. Tanks, missiles and other military equipment then trundled through the square in front of the Kremlin, followed by a flyover by strategic bombers, fighter jets and helicopters.
Putin, who has spent most of the past three months cooped up at his country residence, is hoping that the Moscow parade, one of dozens held across the country on Wednesday, will help lift the gloom that has settled over his rule in recent weeks. The crisis has sent his approval rating to its lowest level since he came to power 20 years ago.
Yelena Loginova, a 36-year-old psychologist who attended the parade, said she had ignored the mayor’s advice to watch events on TV because it was “much more interesting” to see it in person.
Russia on Thursday reported 7,176 new coronavirus cases over the previous 24 hours. The daily increase in infections has dropped from around 10,000 in May, but public health officials have warned that the battle is far from over.
Moscow held its first grand victory parade on June 24, 1945, an event presided over by Stalin, and resumed the ritual in 1965 under the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The tradition was halted after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union until President Boris Yeltsin revived it in 1995, the 50th anniversary of Hitler’s defeat, with a large display of troops and military hardware in Red Square on May 9 Victory Day.