EXPLAINER: Why Victory Day in Russia is different this year

May 4, 2022, 11:37 PM | Updated: May 9, 2022, 3:10 am
FILE - Russian military vehicles roll down Red Square Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory...

FILE - Russian military vehicles roll down Red Square Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, on May 7, 2019. Some in the West think Russian President Vladimir Putin may use the Victory Day on May 9 when Russia celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II to officially declare that war is underway in Ukraine and announce a mobilization _ the claim rejected by the Kremlin. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)

(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)

The invasion of Ukraine means that fewer Russian tanks and other military hardware will rumble through Moscow’s Red Square on Monday, when the country marks its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. The patriotic fervor associated with the sacred holiday, however, could be as strong as ever.

This year’s Victory Day won’t just honor a conflict that ended 77 years ago. Many Russians will be thinking about the thousands of troops fighting in neighboring Ukraine, Signs of support for the military have grown across the country since the invasion began Feb. 24, with the letter “Z” appearing on billboards and signs in the streets and subways, and on television and social media.

The Kremlin has refused to refer to the fighting in Ukraine as a “war,” instead calling it a “special military operation.” Some observers believe that President Vladimir Putin could use the holiday to finally declare the operation to be a war in order to bolster Russia’s national commitment to the effort.

A look at the significance of Victory Day in Russia:


The Soviet Union lost a staggering 27 million people in World War II, which it calls the Great Patriotic War. The conflict, which devastated cities and the countryside, caused enormous suffering and left a deep scar in the national psyche.

Victory Day is a rare event in the nation’s divisive post-Soviet history that is revered by all political players, and the Kremlin has used that sentiment to encourage patriotic pride and underline Russia’s role as a global power.

The annual celebrations feature a massive military parade on Red Square showcasing the latest armaments from tanks to fighter jets to nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.

This year, the array of weapons to be displayed in the parade has been significantly curtailed from last year in an apparent reflection of the military’s heavy engagement in Ukraine.


In ordering the invasion, Putin declared that it was aimed at the “demilitarization” of Ukraine to remove a perceived military threat to Russia by “neo-Nazis” — rhetoric condemned by Ukraine and the West as a fictitious cover for a blunt act of aggression.

To try to back up the claim, Putin and his officials have pointed to the adulation by Ukraine’s right-wing groups of nationalist leaders Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, who sided with the Nazis during World War II and their perceived use of Nazi units’ symbols.

The rhetoric also has been used by the Kremlin to try to bolster public support for the war amid heavy losses of troops and equipment and massive economic damage from Western sanctions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, has derided the Kremlin “denazification” claim. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov fired back by drawing a parallel between Zelenskyy and Adolf Hitler — a statement that has drawn sharp criticism from Israel.


Some in Ukraine and the West expected Putin to try to seek quick gains before the May 9 holiday in a possible attempt to present it as a decisive victory and use it as an exit from what increasingly looks like a disastrous quagmire bleeding Russia’s resources and threatening its stability.

After a failed attempt to storm Kyiv and other big cities in Ukraine’s north in the early stages of the war, the Kremlin has shifted its focus to the eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas, where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014. That conflict erupted weeks after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The Russian military has rearmed and resupplied its forces withdrawn from Kyiv and moved them to Donbas in an apparent attempt to encircle and destroy the most capable and seasoned Ukrainian troops concentrated there.

But that offensive in the east has faced staunch Ukrainian defenses and made only incremental advances, dashing Kremlin hopes for a quick victory. Significant gains look all but impossible before May 9.

In an interview this week, Lavrov said: “Our military isn’t going to artificially link its action to any date, including Victory Day.”


Some Russian hard-liners have criticized the Kremlin for using only a limited force and urged a nationwide mobilization effort. Some Western officials and observers believe Putin may use May 9 to formally declare a war and announce a total mobilization of the population to boost troop numbers for an offensive.

“He’s been rolling the pitch, laying the ground for being able to say, ‘Look, this is now a war against Nazis, and what I need is more people,'” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told LBC Radio last week.

Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, issued a similar warning Monday, alleging that Russia has covertly begun preparations for a broad mobilization.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the claims as “nonsense” on Wednesday.

Russian authorities have claimed that only volunteer contract soldiers have been fighting in Ukraine, even though many conscripts were taken prisoner in the war’s initial days.

Russia’s military has about 1 million service personnel — 400,000 of them contract soldiers, including 147,000 in ground forces. Western officials estimated the initial strength of Russia’s invasion force at about 180,000.

The military acknowledged losing 1,351 soldiers as of March 25 and hasn’t updated its casualty numbers since then. Western officials have said Russian losses were much heavier and estimated that up to a quarter of Moscow’s initial attacking force was made unfit for combat.

If the war drags on, the current Russian troops numbers in Ukraine could be insufficient to sustain the operations, forcing the Kremlin to rely on poorly trained conscripts or call up reservists.

The Kremlin faces a stark choice between trying to win the war with a limited force or attempting to bolster its troops in Ukraine with draftees and reservists, a move that could bring public outrage and potentially destabilize the political situation.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A strike sign is displayed by an entrance at Waterloo train station, in London, during a railway wo...
Associated Press

Here we go again: Strike snarls UK trains for a third day

LONDON (AP) — Train stations were all but deserted across Britain on Saturday, as the third day of a national strike snarled the weekend plans of millions. Train companies said only a fifth of passenger services would run, as about 40,000 cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and station staff walked off the job in Britain’s biggest […]
3 hours ago
Local resident Tetyana points at her house heavily damaged by the Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Done...
Associated Press

Russia pushes to block 2nd city in eastern Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are trying to block a city in eastern Ukraine, the region’s governor said Saturday, after their relentless assault on a nearby city forced Ukrainian troops to begin withdrawal after weeks of intense fighting. Russia also launched missile attacks on areas far from the heart of the eastern battles. Serhiy […]
3 hours ago
Bangladesh's longest bridge, which took eight years to build amid setbacks involving political conf...
Associated Press

Bangladesh marks opening of country’s longest bridge

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday celebrated the opening of the country’s longest bridge, which took eight years to build amid setbacks involving political conflict and corruption allegations. The 6.51-kilometer (4.04-mile) bridge spanning the Padma River cost an estimated $3.6 billion and was paid for with domestic funds after the […]
3 hours ago
Police prepare their equipment and gather prior to a demonstration ahead of the G7 summit in Munich...
Associated Press

Protests expected as G-7 leaders set to arrive in Germany

MUNICH (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to gather in Munich on Saturday as the Group of Seven leading economic powers hold their annual gathering in the Bavarian Alps in Germany, which holds the G-7´s rotating presidency this year. Police were expecting at least 20,000 protesters in the Bavarian city, the German […]
3 hours ago
A model displays the collection by Russian designer Slava Zaitsev during the opening of the Fashion...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: Moscow Fashion Week sprawls across the capital

MOSCOW (AP) — Chic and adventurous models and couturiers have been spread all over the Russian capital for Moscow Fashion Week, flaunting their designs in venues ranging from a sprawling Stalin-era propaganda exposition to a large park near the Kremlin admired for its innovative features. More than 100 shows are being held during the week […]
3 hours ago
Hundreds of people were slaughtered in a village and its surroundings this month in the latest expl...
Associated Press

‘Total bloodbath’: Witnesses describe Ethiopia ethnic attack

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The heavily armed men appeared around the small farming village in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, frightening residents already on edge after recent clashes between government troops and rebels. “The militants assured us that they will not touch us. They said they are not after us,” resident Nur Hussein Abdi told The Associated […]
3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
EXPLAINER: Why Victory Day in Russia is different this year