Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has said the country has passed the peak of coronavirus infections as he ordered a World War II parade, postponed due to the pandemic, to be held next month.
The Victory Day parade, marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, was meant to originally occur on May 9.
“According to experts, the peak can be considered passed,” Putin told Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday, ordering him to begin preparations for the parade, held in capital Moscow’s grand Red Square and other cities across the country.
“We will do it on June 24, the day the legendary historic victors’ parade took place in 1945,” Putin said.
The display of military strength and patriotism during the parade has become a hallmark of Putin’s rule, with thousands gathering in Moscow every year, including elderly veterans proudly wearing their medals.
In power as president or prime minister for more than 20 years, Putin personally reviews the parade, and its postponement, along with that of a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms that could extend his rule until 2036, was seen as disrupting his political agenda.
This year, the Victory Day parade was supposed to highlight Russia’s exception role in history and on the world stage, with leaders, including Emmanuel Macron of France and China’s Xi Jinping, expected to attend.
After Putin’s announcement, the presidents of Kazakhstan and Moldova said they would attend the June event.
Another popular event usually held on May 9 – the Immortal Regiment processions that see Russians across the country carry portraits of their relatives who died in World War II – will be held on July 26, Putin said.
The pandemic also forced Putin to cancel a key vote in April on constitutional reforms that would have paved the way for him to retain power until 2036.
On Monday, Putin made a rare appearance in the Kremlin after working remotely from his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow for the past few weeks.
Putin’s remarks on Tuesday came as Russia recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll of 174, bringing the overall COVID-19 deaths to 3,807.
A record 12,000 people had also recovered from the virus in the past 24 hours, officials said.
Russia has reported a total of 362,342 confirmed cases, the third-highest number in the world after the United States and Brazil.