Putins Victory Day parade ruined after Red Square drone attack

Russia alleges the Kremlin has been hit by drone strike

Vladimir Putin’s plans for victorious celebrations on Tuesday have already been “comprehensively ruined” following a drone strike on Red Square, experts have said.

Though the strike is being denied by Ukraine, it is not beyond the possibility that elements of Ukraine’s Special Forces entered Russian territory to launch the drone which almost destroyed the dome of the Senate.

May 9 is Victory Day in Russia, originally brought in to mark the defeat of the Nazis. It is now an important day in the Russian calendar although the Kremlin strike has marred the event.

The drone was able to bypass sophisticated Russian air defences in one of the most heavily-protected areas of Moscow to reach the building before it was seemingly destroyed at the last minute.

Some experts say it may have been a deliberate “false flag” operation by Russia to offer a pretext for more serious retaliation.

“We cannot ascribe rationality to a regime which has shown precious little – this is the same Kremlin which blew up its own Nord Stream pipeline,” said Keir Giles, of the Chatham House think tank.

But others say the drone attack was simply too humiliating to have been orchestrated by Russia.

“I think the Ukrainians were behind it – whether officially or through rogue elements – because alternative scenarios just don’t work,” said Prof Mark Galeotti, of the Council of Geostrategy.

“It is tremendously and shockingly embarrassing. Even hardened nationalists, those saying Russia should obliterate Zelensky for having the temerity to do this, are also asking what on earth have we been spending billions on if a couple of drones can penetrate all the way to Russia’s most secure location?”

While the state showed little embarrassment over the blowing up of the Nord Stream pipeline in September last year, it is very different now, said Prof Galeotti.

“It’s striking that domestically, Russian media isn’t making a big deal of this. Russian TV didn’t show the footage. They simply put out a statement,” he said.

“There has been no effort to mobilise the population behind this, no spontaneous demonstrations demanding action. This shows it was not an expected event.”

What is clear, however, is that it bodes badly for next week’s victory celebrations, the summit of Russia’s military pageantry and, usually, a showcase of its might.

Several cities have declared they are boycotting Tuesday’s ceremonies, citing security concerns.

But this convenient pretext actually makes another truth – a lack of willingness and capability to embark on parades when the war in Ukraine is going so badly.

“This act wasn’t designed to kill Putin – Putin would not have been there. This was a political act,” said Prof Galeotti on the drone attack.

“The dome of the Senate looms over Red Square. It’s a fixture of TV coverage of Red Square parades.

“Imagine, if they had knocked off that flagpole a few days before the victory celebrations. It would have been embarrassing.”

He said we should expect a very different V Day this year.

“It is usually a high holy day for Putinism, a triumphalist celebration of Russia’s victories and Putin’s role in them,” said Prof Galeotti, author of We Need To Talk About Putin. “A lot of cities cancel these parades on security grounds.

“But in reality it is because they don’t have enough properly-trained troops and tanks to make for a good parade. And to have it in
the middle of a war you are not winning will seem hollow.

“How many have relatives mobilised and on the front, or fear another wave of mobilisations?”

Usually details of which units would take part in the parade would have been released by now.

Prof Galeotti said: “The fact we are still waiting is a sign this is being done on the cheap. Russians know it is not business as usual. Putin’s big day has been ruined.”

Ukraine has said Russian forces had used deadly white phosphorus as it attacked the besieged city of Bakhmut. The munitions create fast spreading fires, and their use in civilian areas is a war crime.

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