Victory Day celebrations in Russia: Kremlin's weapon to legitimise Putin's indefinite presidency

New Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Palki SharmaUpdated: Jun 25, 2020, 07:23 AM IST


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The Victory Day is celebrated to mark the defeat of Hitler, and his Nazi army in the Second World War, at the hands of the Soviet Union

Russia recently marked the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day, which was previously delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has infected 600,000 people in the country.

The Victory Day is celebrated to mark the defeat of Hitler, and his Nazi army in the Second World War, at the hands of the Soviet Union.

Dubbed as the “grand finale of Putin’s own victory year”, the ceremony had many foreign leaders in attendance. Russia put up a grand display of its military capabilities with tanks and missiles parading through the famous Red Square.

The country also showed off its latest military hardware, including a flyover of its most advanced fighter jets. This included 14,000 troops, 75 aircraft, and participation from 13 countries. In the audience sat 64,000 people, with the celebrations spread across 28 cities.

Earlier, the parade was scheduled on May 9, 2020. But it was delayed due to the outbreak. On May 8, 1945, Germany signed the instrument of surrender, signifying the end of the Second World War for Russia.

Over 40,000 Red Army soldiers and more than 1,800 military vehicles took part in the first ever Victory Parade. Troops returning from the frontline were greeted by joyous crowds showering flowers on them.

Monopolising the parade?

The Kremlin has used the auspicious day to push for Putin’s legitimacy as the Russian leader, many critics believe.

Many believe that the event was pushed back not because of the virus, but owing to the referendum on the Russian constitution. As part of this, over 200 provisions will be amended. However, the most controversial amendment would allow Putin to clench on to his presidency indefinitely.

Currently, the Russian president is limited by terms. During his first stint as president, Putin had two terms, for four years each, from 2000 to 2008. After this, he made way for his trusted deputy and became the prime minister. In 2012 he took office again, and this time his terms lasted for six years each, with his current term slated to end in 2024.

What many critics are calling a “constitutional coup” will enable him to stay in power at least until 2036, which would make him Russia’s longest-serving leader. Stalin currently holds the record, with a 29-year term.

The world’s longest serving leaders include Fidel Castro in Cuba with 49 years, followed by Chiang Kai Shek in Taiwan for 47 years, and Kim Il Sung of North Korea who held power for 46 years.

Will the Russian people agree?

Many analysts have pointed out fears of the referendum being democratic only on paper. They believe this “symbolic referendum” is strategically designed to eliminate threats.

Putin had earlier claimed to have “full confidence” in winning this referendum, which would provide legitimacy to his leadership and constitutional changes therein.

Many international contingents including India, China, and Mongolia were in attendance at this parade.

On the stands at the Red Square were the defence ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and India. The presidents of Belarus and Serbia also attended the event. The world legitimised this event while US president Donald Trump was recently denied from conducting a G7 meeting.

Coronavirus danger, or not?

Russia is the third worst hit country by the coronavirus, but has begun to open gyms, restaurants, cafes and salons.

Putin made a series of public appearances ahead of the parade, including opening a vast military cathedral, laying a wreath on the tomb of an unknown soldier, following an interaction with veterans.

At the parade he sat next to Galina Beltsova. The 95-year-old is the last surviving member of a Soviet female air force regiment. However, no social distancing protocols were followed, and no masks were spotted.

Turns out, everybody who met Putin at the parade were forced to undergo a two-week-long quarantine, with extensive measures in place for his safety.

Putin also has a special disinfectant tunnel at home, which sprays fine mist on visitors to kill the virus. At 67, Putin has completed 20 years in power, but has also hit his lowest approval ratings of 59.