- Russia celebrated its biggest public holiday, Victory Day, with a massive military parade on Wednesday.
- The event, which had previously been postponed, went ahead despite the country’s ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
- World War II veterans, many of whom are over 90 years old, had to quarantine for two weeks so they could sit next to President Vladimir Putin during the parade.
- The parade comes one week before Putin holds a nationwide vote for constitutional amendments that would allow him to extend his term to 2036.
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Russia pushed ahead with a massive Victory Day parade on Wednesday despite the country’s coronavirus cases continuing to mount.
As the country surpassed 600,000 total infections, thousands of military personnel marched on Moscow’s Red Square to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War II.
Victory Day is considered the country’s biggest public holiday. It was initially supposed to be held on May 9 but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Russia recorded 7,425 new cases and 153 news deaths on Tuesday — the day before the parade — bringing the total number of infections up to more than 608,000 cases, according to Worldometer.
Despite the increasing infections, the country still went ahead with the large-scale celebration.
It featured around 13,000 military personnel, 234 armoured vehicles, and 75 aircraft performing the traditional flypast, according to the BBC.
Weeks of planning went into preparing the event: Military units taking part had to go into quarantine while they were rehearsing so that they could avoid contact with anyone not involved in the ceremony.
Attending World War II veterans, many of which are over 90 years old, also had to quarantine for two weeks so that they could sit with President Vladimir Putin at the ceremony.
“They are in wonderful conditions there,” a Kremlin spokesman said of the sanitariums outside Moscow, where the veterans were kept.
It is clear that Russian officials are taking great measures to shield Putin from the coronavirus. His official residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, just outside Moscow, has a special disinfection tunnel people have to walk through before meeting him.
The parade comes a week before Putin holds a nationwide vote, in which he hopes to receive public backing for constitutional amendments that would allow him to stay at the Kremlin beyond 2024 — the year his term expires.
If Putin wins the July 1 vote, his term could be extended to 2036. Voting will be done online and will begin less than 24 hours after the parade.
Putin is known for organizing massive, over-the-top stunts to portray himself as a strongman and drum up national support for himself.
Moscow began lifting some lockdown restrictions on June 8, but its mayor, Sergei Sobayin, remains cautious.
Earlier this week, he asked spectators to avoid crowding the street, urging them to watch the parade from home instead.
“It’s better to watch it on television,” he said, according to The Guardian. “There shouldn’t be any crowds, there shouldn’t be spectators there.”
Other Russian cities — including “hero cities” that saw the heaviest fighting during the war — also held military parades to celebrate Victory Day on Wednesday.
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