Wednesday, 24 June 2020 10:11 AM [ Last Update: Wednesday, 24 June 2020 10:11 AM ]
Soviet-era T-34 tanks drive during the Victory Day Parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on June 24, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)
Russia is holding a massive military parade in Moscow to celebrate its annual Victory Day, on the eve of a national referendum on extending President Vladimir Putin’s time in office.
The parade, marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s World War Two victory over Nazi Germany, had to be rescheduled from its original date on May 9 due to the new coronavirus outbreak.
It kicked off in Moscow’s Red Square on Wednesday, with the participation of an estimated 14,000 Russian troops, as well as tanks and aircraft.
Under coronavirus-related restrictions, access to Red Square and the president is limited, however.
Journalists have been limited to a press center, and visiting participants were quarantined before the event.
Dozens of World War II veterans, who are now more than 90 years of age, were also sequestered in sanatoriums outside of Moscow for two weeks before the event.
“They are in wonderful conditions there,” a Kremlin spokesman said.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin called on people to avoid crowding the streets to catch sight of the passing military hardware and “watch it on television.”
“There shouldn’t be any crowds, there shouldn’t be spectators there,” he said.
Foreign leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron, who had been invited to the event, have canceled their attendance due to the epidemic.
More than a dozen large cities have also canceled parades or will hold them without any crowds.
Russia reported 7,425 new infections on Tuesday, taking the total reported cases of COVID-19 in the country to 598,878. There have been 8,359 confirmed deaths related to the disease countrywide.
A national vote on the country’s constitution was suspended on April 22 due to the outbreak. It will now be held online from June 25 until July 1.
The changes would allow President Putin two more six-year terms if re-elected.
Under the current constitution, Putin is banned from seeking re-election when his mandate ends in 2024.
Some 67-71 percent of the voters are expected to endorse the change, according to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM)