MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin presided over the grand unveiling of a new generation of Russian military hardware as part of Moscow’s most extravagant Victory Day celebrations since the fall of the Soviet Union on May 9.
After weeks of encouragement by Russia’s state-run media outlets, Muscovites swarmed the city center with profound patriotic fervor to pay tribute to the nation’s hefty sacrifices 70 year ago in World War II.
When Putin took to the stage on Red Square to kick off the celebrations, he told a crowd of foreign dignitaries represented largely by nations such as China, Venezuela, India and even Cuba, it became clear that this year’s celebrations were about more than the 2,000 veterans bused onto Red Square to watch the carefully choreographed spectacle.
Putin began the even with a subtly worded speech accusing the West of promoting an international system of double standards, before a Russian general — standing atop the passenger seat of a black Zil convertible in a dress uniform — led 16,000 troops marching across the square to the beat of patriotic Red Army wartime classics.
Soldiers mostly wore the usual parade garbs: a mix of World War II and more recent Soviet-style outfits. But one regiment donned the unmistakably new Ratnik military kit. The parade’s announcer introduced these soldiers as the infamous “Polite People,” the unmarked Russian soldiers who effortlessly seized Crimea from Ukraine last year.