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Russia stages grand WWII parade ahead of vote on Putin reforms

By AFP - Jun 24,2020 - Last updated at Jun 24,2020

This photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin and veterans watching a military parade, which marks the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Germany in World War II, at Red Square in Moscow, on Wednesday (AFP photo)

MOSCOW — Columns of tanks and troops paraded through Moscow on Wednesday as Russian President Vladimir Putin presided over grand World War II (WWII) commemorations to stir up patriotic fervour ahead of a vote on extending his rule.

Putin was flanked on Red Square by elderly war veterans in uniforms laden with medals as thousands of troops carrying bright banners and Kalashnikov rifles marched in the blazing sun to mark the Soviet Union’s defeat of “Nazi” Germany.

Forced to postpone the traditional May 9 Victory Day celebrations by the coronavirus pandemic, Putin rescheduled the parade for just a week before the July 1 vote on controversial constitutional reforms.

Among other changes, the reforms Putin proposed earlier this year would reset his presidential term-limit clock to zero, allowing him to run two more times and potentially stay in the Kremlin until 2036.

“It is impossible even to imagine what the world would be if the Red Army hadn’t come to defend it,” the president said in an address to troops following a minute of silence to remember soldiers who died in the fighting.

Putin hailed the Soviet role in World War II praising the Red army for liberating Europe, ending the Holocaust and saving Germany from Nazism, saying it was “our duty to keep this in mind”.

Last month, he announced the new dates for both the parade and the vote — initially planned for April — despite Russia still recording thousands of new coronavirus cases every day.

The rate of new infections has fallen in recent weeks and cities including Moscow have lifted anti-virus lockdowns, but critics accuse Putin of rushing ahead with public events to pursue his own political ends.

This year’s parade, marking 75 years since the Nazi defeat, showcased 14,000 troops from 13 countries, as well as vintage equipment and the country’s latest military hardware.

The date coincides with the anniversary of the first post-war parade on Red Square, when Soviet troops threw down Nazi standards in front of the Lenin mausoleum on June 24, 1945.

 

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