The Victory Day Parades in Russia are usually characterized by throngs lining the main streets, cheering the passing tanks, armoured vehicles, S-400 anti-aircraft system, and the spectators’ favourite, the YARS intercontinental missile, capable of delivering a nuclear payload around the world.
Flyovers are another great highlight. The final flourish is always the tricolor Russian flag that trails across the sky.
This was not your typical Victory Day.
Public access was strictly prohibited.
The only way to see the real action was inside Red Square, and this is only by invitation.
Read more about the latest Ukraine war: Russia faces an ‘imminent victory’ as Putin attacks the West
The Russian Victory Day Parade is smaller than in previous years
Normaly, foreign media is also accredited to film in the country. But not this year.
The parade that left Red Square was not much to behold.
There were just over 50 pieces, but the only tank displayed is the T-34 “Victory Tank” from the Second World War. The entire drive-by lasted just five minutes, with the airshow cancelled well in advance of Victory Day.
Once they found a good viewing position, the onlookers that we encountered seemed to be ok with the reduced program.
Artyom said, “It’s logical because Ukraine needs a lot more vehicles.”
“This year, they handled everything with tact”
This is the tone of Russia’s nationalist Telegram channels.
Alexander Kots, a well-known military reporter, wrote: “I confessed that I was afraid tanks and armored personnel carriers, which are so essential in war zones, would be driven through Red Square.” “But they were tactful this year.”
The mood towards foreign media was very sour.
Some of the comments we received were “You’re just spreading propaganda”, “You want to say horrible things about our President”, and “tell us the truth”. It is becoming more common.
Many people have taken the Kremlin narrative at face value
The older generation is more likely to not care about how outspoken you are.
It’s because many people have accepted the Kremlin narrative in its entirety.
Andrei, a Rostov resident, held back his expletives. “Our grandparents should have done better in 1945 to prevent this from happening.”
Many young Russians refuse not to speak
The younger Russians are more cautious.
Many are unwilling to speak. One couple said they were afraid of being expelled from their university for speaking out.
Another woman stated that she believed militarism has no place in 21st Century given the war in Ukraine, and other horrible things.
I asked if she was worried about calling this a war.
She replied, “It’s not legal but that’s what it is called.” We did not broadcast the answer.
“If [Ukraine] were to do the same thing on a similar scale, they’d”
Artyom outlined the three assassination efforts that saw nationalist figures targeted, and even killed, since Daria Dugi’s death in last summer.
The weekend saw another car bomb, this time targeting the well-known author Zakhar Prrilepin. However, it was the passenger in the vehicle who was killed.
Artyom was upset that Ukraine and their Western allies didn’t seem to be bothered about these attacks.
He said that when I suggested the reason might be due to the frequency and scale of Russian missile strikes and UAV attacks on Ukrainian targets, Ukrainians also shelled Russian cities, including Belgorod.
It’s not the same scale, though. I asked.
The answer was “If they could do the same thing on the scale they would”