Moscow gathers thousands for WWII parade despite coronavirus concerns

Moscow - By Peter Spinella, - Moscow hosted a major military parade on Wednesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe despite the grand event's potential to spread the coronavirus.

More than 13,000 soldiers participated in the parade in central Moscow, with more than a dozen delegations from Russia's post-Soviet allies, China, India, Serbia and Mongolia.
The parade was initially planned for when Russia celebrated Victory Day on May 9, but it was postponed in April as the country's coronavirus caseload was rapidly growing at the time.
"Our dear foreign guests, comrade soldiers and sailors ... comrade officers, generals and admirals, I congratulate you for the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War," President Vladimir Putin said.
It was a "triumph of unprecedented power," Putin said in his speech.
The parade began with the march of an honour guard, holding Russian and Soviet flags. Putin was shown on state television sitting between two veterans.
Red Square was tightly packed during the event. Images broadcast from the scene showed no face masks among the masses of participants.
Near Putin were Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic, Kazakhstan's Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Moldova's Igor Dodon and several other close allies.
Kyrgyzstan's President Sooronbay Jeenbekov had also arrived in Moscow but did not attend the parade because two members of his entourage tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said in a statement.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had reiterated its warning to Russia just days before the parade, saying that such a mass event posed a risk of "exacerbated spread" of the coronavirus.
Russia has reported more than 600,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, the world's third largest caseload behind the United States and Brazil.
Russia has been lifting mass quarantine measures in recent weeks as the infection rate has declined throughout much of the country, including Moscow.
The Soviet Union suffered tens of millions of casualties during the war, the largest number among the Allied forces. The victory over Nazi Germany remains a substantial source of national pride in Russia.
Wednesday's commemoration included 75 aircraft and more than 200 military vehicles, according to the official description.
Putin has been in power as president or prime minister of Russia for two decades - the longest-serving Russian or Soviet leader since Joseph Stalin.
A week after the parade, on July 1, Russia is due to hold a nationwide referendum to amend the constitution to let Putin run for re-election twice more.

Wednesday, June 24th 2020
By Peter Spinella,

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