Russia flexes its muscles prepping for ‘Victory Day’ parade

The Kremlin is pushing ahead with a celebration of its military might even as Russian forces struggle for traction in the eight-week invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said this week it will send 77 combat aircraft into the skies over Moscow’s Red Square on May 9 to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in what they refer to as the “Great Patriotic War.”

The Moscow parade is one of 28 military commemorations scheduled to take place throughout Russia. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told TASS, the Russian news agency, that about 65,000 troops, 2,400 weapon systems and more than 460 aircraft will take part. Although significant, the size of this year’s main parade in Moscow is reported to be significantly smaller than past commemorations, a reflection of the heavy losses of men and material Russian forces have already experienced in the Ukraine fighting.

The drain of the Ukrainian war is not stopping the celebrations: An Ilyushin Il-80 ‘doomsday’ strategic command post flew over Moscow during dress rehearsals, escorted by at least two MiG-29 fighters. Other long-range bombers, including the MiG- 31 and MiG-31BM, also took the skies during rehearsals of the airborne part of the military parade, Tass reported.

Fighter pilots flew over Red Square in a tight formation resembling the letter Z, which has come to symbolize support for the troops fighting in Ukraine.

Western analysts have speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning either a major military or diplomatic announcement on Ukraine tied to the May 9 celebrations, including a formal declaration of war or the possible formal annexation of breakaway enclaves in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. But Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied any plans for a bombshell announcement tied to what the Kremlin still refers to officially as a “special military operation.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also batted down talk of a formal declaration of war, telling reporters Tuesday, “There is no chance of that. It’s nonsense.”

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