It felt different. It looked different. It was different. The Moscow observance of Victory Day has historically been the trendsetter for other regional celebrations. Not this year, however. Sure, there were bands and the parade with tanks, there were speeches and salutes, veterans were given flowers and there was the festive atmosphere in city parks and squares just like all the other years.
But, this year was different. Lively but at the same time muted, and perhaps even a little deflated. Russia has isolated herself from most of the Western world and the collegial atmosphere and shows of good will from other nations, even neighboring states, was nothing as in the past.
As for size of the parade, it was larger than normal and that was to best expected for the marking of the 70th anniversary. It was the largest military parade in the history of Red Square, with 16,000 servicemen, 194 units of land-based military equipment and 143 aircraft and helicopters employed in the parade.
To make up for the non-shows by many usual world leaders, Moscow invited some 2,000 veterans, more than usual, to sit in the parade stands on Red Square.
This year’s most honoured guest was Xi Jinping, president of China who was accompanied by his wife. Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army of China marched in the parade. Other world leaders who attended included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Raul Castro of Cuba, and President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
After the parade,Russian president Vladimir Putin laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden. In some previous years the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers has taken place prior to the parade.