Russia cancels Second World War remembrance marches over fears of Ukraine war protests

moscow soldier - REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
moscow soldier - REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The Kremlin has cancelled nationwide Second World War remembrance marches over fears they would have turned into protests over Ukraine war casualties, the Ministry of Defence has said.

It also said that by cancelling Immortal Regiment parades next month, the Kremlin has undermined its own propaganda that Russian soldiers are once again fighting Nazis in Ukraine.

“The Russian state is struggling to maintain consistency in a core narrative that it uses to justify the war in Ukraine,” the MoD said.

Western intelligence has said that more than 200,000 Russian soldiers and mercenaries have been killed or badly injured since the Kremlin ordered its invasion on Feb 24 2022 but in Russia, casualty numbers are ignored or lied about.

The MoD added that protecting this lie was the main motivation behind cancelling the Immortal Regiment parades.

“In reality, the authorities were highly likely concerned that participants would highlight the scope of recent Russian losses,” it said.

moscow - AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
moscow - AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

The Immortal Regiment parades have become the centrepiece of the Kremlin’s May 9 Victory Day celebrations as they actively involve hundreds of thousands of ordinary Russians.

Encouraged by the Kremlin, people typically march through city centres carrying portraits of Red Army soldiers who fought in the Second World War against Nazi Germany, as well as photos of soldiers killed fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Chechnya in the 1990s.

They often wear old military medals, berets and black and orange ribbons which have come to symbolise support for Russia’s wars.

The Kremlin usually regards this show of mass support as the highlight of its propaganda year and has pushed it. Russian PR agencies have paid people to attend parades and last year Russian officials also insisted on a parade through bombed-out occupied Mariupol.

But on Tuesday, the state-linked organisation behind the marches said the parade would be moved online for safety reasons.

Several cities in Russia have also cancelled military parades planned for May 9, although the main parade in Red Square, which is attended by Vladimir Putin, is expected to go ahead.