Russian President Vladimir Putin has marked Victory Day, the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, in a ceremony shorn of its usual military parade and pomp due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Putin on Saturday laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just outside the Kremlin walls in the capital, Moscow, and gave a short address honouring the valour and suffering of the Soviet army during the war.
Victory Day is Russia’s most important secular holiday. This year’s observance had been expected to be especially large because it marked the 75th anniversary, but a military parade at Moscow’s Red Square and a mass procession called The Immortal Regiment were postponed as part of measures to stifle the spread of the coronavirus.
The only vestige of the conventional show of military might was a flyover of the capital by 75 fighter jets and helicopters.
Al Jazeera’s Oksana Brown, reporting from Moscow, said the city’s streets that were supposed to see tens of thousands of people marching were eerily empty.
“Moscow looks very unusual for this big day for Russia,” she said.
“This was supposed to be a big showcase event for Putin, with many world leaders initially invited. But as the epidemic started growing in March, the Kremlin had to make a very difficult decision to cancel the parade and all the mass events.”
The muted celebrations came as Russia said it had registered an additional 10,817 coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to 198,676. The death toll rose by 104 to 1,827.
In the final events of the Victory in Europe Day commemoration in Western Europe, which took place a day earlier, Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate was illuminated late on Friday.
The words “Thank You” against a blue backdrop were projected onto the monument in Russian, English, French and German.
Earlier in the day, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier described May 8 as the day Germany, too, was “liberated” from Nazi dictatorship.