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Russia stages Victory Day parade after 6-week delay

By
Don Jacobson
Parade formations are seen Wednesday before the 75th Victory Day parade in Moscow, Russia. Photo by Mikhail Voskresenskiy/EPA-EFE
Parade formations are seen Wednesday before the 75th Victory Day parade in Moscow, Russia. Photo by Mikhail Voskresenskiy/EPA-EFE

June 24 (UPI) -- Soviet-era tanks, modern military hardware and thousands of troops paraded through Moscow Wednesday as President Vladimir Putin presided over a celebration of Russia's victory over Nazi Germany during World War II -- a celebration that was delayed for weeks by the coronavirus crisis.

Stationed at a viewing post in Moscow's Red Square and surrounded by World War II veterans, Putin watched as the parade began with an honor guard bearing the "Victory Banner," the flag raised over the German Reichstag in 1945 to signal the defeat of the Nazis.

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Next came row after row of military hardware, including Soviet T-34 tanks and Russia's latest weapons systems like upgraded tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and rocket launchers.

Thousands of Russian and foreign troops, from China, India and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, marched through Red Square as part of the 75th anniversary celebration, which was originally planned for May 9. Putin postponed the event about a month earlier.

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Last month, the Russian leader ordered his defense chiefs to incorporate COVID-19 mitigation measures into the celebration, as the country continues to record an average of 8,000 new cases per day. Veterans surrounding Putin Wednesday at the viewing stand were quarantined for two weeks at a resort outside Moscow, state media reported.

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Coronavirus-related restrictions in the Russian capital were lifted earlier this month to prepare for the military parade.

Wednesday's display comes a week before Russians are scheduled to go to the polls to vote on proposed constitution reforms that would allow Putin to remain in power until 2036. Like the Victory Day parade, the original vote was postponed by the health crisis.

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The changes to the constitution have already been approved by Russian Parliament and are widely expected to be approved by voters. Putin said Sunday he hasn't ruled out a bid to extend his presidency when it expires in 2024.

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