Russia-Ukraine war: Flypasts mysteriously cancelled after Victory Day parade falls flat

Russia’s Victory Day parade in Moscow went ahead without a promised display of airpower in which warplanes were expected to perform a flypast in a “Z” formation.

Aircraft rehearsing for Monday’s event had been seen flying in the Z shape, which is also used to identify Russian armoured vehicles in Ukraine.

But the Kremlin cancelled the planned display in Moscow at the last minute because of “bad weather”. The explanation caused widespread bafflement, with conditions in Moscow neither rainy nor particularly windy or overcast.

Similar displays in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Samara were also cancelled, prompting speculation that Russia was concerned about Ukrainian sabotage.

The scrapping of the air display added to a sense that Vladimir Putin’s much-vaunted May 9 Victory Day extravaganza was something of a damp squib.

The Russian president had been widely expected to make a full-scale declaration of war against Kyiv, which would entail a mass mobilisation of Russian citizens. He issued no such orders, and neither did he make any new threats to the territorial integrity of the Baltics or Finland, as some had feared he might.

In the run-up to live coverage, a computer hack of Russian broadcasters led to millions of Russians receiving anti-war messages on their screens.

“The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of their children is on your hands,” the message read. “TV and the authorities lie. No to war.”

The Victory Day parade is held every year to celebrate the Soviet defeat of Hitler in World War II – a campaign Putin claims he is now finishing off by mopping up “Nazis” in Ukraine.

As well as Monday’s huge turnout in Moscow, where battalions of soldiers marched past the Russian leader, smaller events were held in28 other Russian cities, involving more than 60,000 participants. However, for all the pomp and ceremony, it should have been an even bigger event than it was.

Had Putin’s invasion of Ukraine gone to plan, he would have had sister parades arranged in Kyiv, put on by the Moscow-friendly government he intended to install.

Instead, with the Russian campaign in Ukraine faltering, even Ukraine’s pro-Russian breakaway republics of Luhansk and Donetsk – normally the keenest parade-holders – had to cancel this year for security reasons.

The planned parade in the Russian-captured city of Mariupol was also cancelled, most likely because it is far too bomb-damaged to be fit for TV screens.

Even Putin seemed to lack his usual truculence, painting himself as the innocent party rather than the aggressor.

Russia had had no choice but to invade Ukraine, he insisted, because the West was “preparing for the invasion of our land, including Crimea”. He declared: “That is absolutely unacceptable to us.”

The “heroic” Russian soldiers he had despatched to Ukraine, he said, were fighting the same “Nazi” enemies their forefathers had battled at Stalingrad. The only difference was that these days, those “Nazis” were controlled by Nato, which was also armed with atomic weapons, he said.

“In Kyiv, they announced the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons,” Putin claimed – blithely forgetting that he has been the main one delivering nuclear-tipped threats.

Yet by his usual blood-curdling standards, this was something of a mild-mannered address.For some Russians – and, of course, most Ukrainians – the speech will have been something of a relief.

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