Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed the 9 May Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at a security meeting on April 16, Putin said events including a massive military parade in Moscow’s Red Square would be postponed until a later date.
“The risks linked to the epidemic that hasn’t yet reached its peak are extremely high, and that doesn’t give me the right to start preparations for the parade and other festivities,” he said, adding that the celebration will be held later this year.
The postponement followed an earlier decision by Putin to put off a vote originally scheduled for April 22 on constitutional changes that would allow him to stay in office until 2036, if he desired.
Mr Putin said Russia was facing a difficult choice: 9 May was sacred, but so was the life of every person.
World War Two veterans had appealed to him to move the event.
Russian officials reported a new record increase of 3,448 coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 27,938 cases. Officially there have been 232 deaths, but the real number is believed to be higher.
The president has ordered a partial economic shutdown until April 30 and recently warned officials to prepare for the “most extraordinary” scenarios of the outbreak, because the number of infections in Russia has grown exponentially.
Since the Soviet era, Victory Day has been the nation’s most revered holiday, reflecting the country’s enormous suffering during World War II. Russian officials have put the nation’s death toll at 27 million in the war, and some historians think it could be higher.
“On Victory Day, we honor the heroes who defended the country and the rest of the world and sacrificed their lives to protect others,” Putin said, adding that Russians still will mark the day despite the need to delay the public ceremonies. “Every family will remember and honor its heroes.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Emmanuel Macron and other foreign dignitaries had promised to attend this year’s parade, which was to involve 14,000 troops and 300 tanks and other vehicles in a massive display of military might.
Russian troops already had started rehearsing for the parade, drilling at a range outside Moscow that was configured to resemble Red Square.