Russia has scaled back its Victory Day celebrations over fears they could be targeted by pro-Ukraine forces – as Kyiv prepares for its long-anticipated counteroffensive.
Victory Day is a key anniversary for President Vladimir Putin, commemorating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
But several Russian regions have already scaled back celebratory events, citing concerns that pro-Ukrainian saboteurs could target the proceedings.
Security concerns have already prompted the nationwide cancellation of “Immortal Regiment” civilian processions – a key Victory Day event that sees Russians carry portraits of relatives who fought against the Nazis.
Russian energy, logistics and military facilities have been hit in drone and other attacks since Moscow launched what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, with a number of fires and explosions reported in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, Moscow authorities reported a fuel depot was on fire near to a crucial bridge that links Russia’s mainland with Crimea. Days earlier, on Saturday, Moscow blamed Ukraine for another attack that saw another oil depot in Crimea’s largest city, Sevastopol, set ablaze.
Kyiv has not taken official responsibility for the attacks, but has often made cryptic or sarcastic comments welcoming them as it resists what it calls a Russian war of conquest.
Over the weekend, Kyiv’s military said undermining Russia’s logistics formed part of preparations for its long-expected counteroffensive, which will be aided by fresh deliveries of tanks and more powerful Western weapons.
Russian security services are working to ensure that Moscow’s annual Victory Day parade across Red Square on May 9 can go ahead safely despite the risk of a threat from Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.
“We are of course aware that the Kyiv regime, which is behind a number of such attacks, terrorist acts, plans to continue its campaign,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“All our special services are doing everything possible to ensure security. Most importantly, the Special Military Operation is being conducted to root out threats to our country.”
Putin, his defence minister, and other senior officials usually review the parade – which has in the past included tanks, intercontinental missile launchers and marching troops, as well as a flyover.
Putin traditionally makes a short speech, and similar but more modest military parades are held in other towns and cities.