The war in Ukraine: what will the military parade on May 9 in Russia look like?

A show of force for all the Russians and the rest of the world. On Monday, Moscow hosts the traditional military parade on May 9, the day celebrating the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, and the day of national unity in the midst of the war against Ukraine. As the West speculates on the content of Vladimir Putin’s speech, all eyes are also on the equipment put up during the show.

Because for the head of the Russian state, this parade serves above all to show the strength of his army. On the emblematic Red Square, in the heart of Moscow, a set of nuclear missiles is expected, such as the Iars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic system and the short-range Iskander system.

In the columns on the ground there will be several corpses of soldiers, including paratroopers who took part in the offensive in Ukraine, as well as battle tanks, anti-aircraft missile systems or even rocket launchers, as detailed in the parade plan. Broadcast by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Russian fighter jets fly over Moscow’s Red Square in a Z-shape during exercises for the May 9 Parade. Agence France-Presse / Yuri Kadunov AFP or licensors

In the air, 77 aircraft will demonstrate, including Tupolev bombers, combat aircraft, attack helicopters and transport. Eight fighter jets will fly in the shape of the letter Z, Russia’s national symbol of war, in support of members of the Special Operation in Ukraine, while others will paint the colors of the Russian flag, blue, white and red, in the air.

“A plane from the end of the world”

One aircraft in particular will draw attention: the Ilyushin II-80, nicknamed “Airplane of the Apocalypse”. This type of device, inspired by the Ilyushin II-86 civil aircraft, serves as a “national air operations center”, developed by Russia’s TASS agency six years ago, and which are several models of its kind in Russia. “They can be used by military chiefs in the event of a nuclear war, or in the event of the destruction of the command and control infrastructure on the ground.”

An Ilyushin II-80 aircraft in the skies of Russia, escorted by combat aircraft, during a parade rehearsal on May 9 in Moscow.  Agence France-Presse / Natalia Kolesnikova
An Ilyushin II-80 aircraft in the skies of Russia, escorted by combat aircraft, during a parade rehearsal on May 9 in Moscow. Agence France-Presse / Natalia Kolesnikova AFP or licensors

This device is supposed to protect Russian officials, including the president, in a nuclear war. For this reason, it has no external vents (except for the cockpit windows)” and has equipment intended to block electromagnetic pulses, the agency continues. It is clear that its equipment can withstand the consequences of a nuclear attack that would burn the device’s communication and control circuits. Russia is not the only power that She owns such a device: in the United States, its American version is called E-4B, it is built from the Boeing 747 and exists in four versions.

missing equipment

If the display of such military equipment is impressive, some analysts warn: the rallies in 2022 will be a little less decorative than in 2021, due to the war in Ukraine. Last year, 191 military vehicles and 12,000 soldiers were mobilized for the parade. This year, it will parade 131 vehicles and 10,000 soldiers, according to the plans of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Russian Navy soldiers march on Moscow's Red Square during exercises for the May 9 Parade.  Agence France-Presse / Kirill Kudryavtsev
Russian Navy soldiers march on Moscow’s Red Square during exercises for the May 9 Parade. Agence France-Presse / Kirill Kudryavtsev

According to the BBC, this parade will be absent from T-80 tanks, 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled guns, TOS-1A Solntsepek missile launchers, Pantsir mobile anti-aircraft systems and National Guard vehicles. Equipment that corresponds to that seen on the ground in Ukraine.

Could this be an admission of Moscow’s failure? Not completely. “It is one of the rare times when Russia is fighting a conventional war on its border and has a show at the same time. A smaller procession shows that the Russian government is aware of the losses in Ukraine and is trying to manage this,” says Aglaya Snitkov, lecturer at University College London who specializes in international politics and issues Russian Security.In the Moscow Times.

Although the big parade will take place in the Russian capital, and the majority of the population will see it on TV, many other cities will host their own parade and celebrations, such as in Saint Petersburg, where troops and equipment will be paraded. Palace Square, as well as in Rostov-sur-le-Don, Volgograd, Sevastopol, Novosibirsk, and even Vladivostok.

Propaganda of the Russian army can extend to Ukraine. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian military intelligence feared that a military parade would be held in the martyred city of Mariupol. The Kremlin denied the information it confirmed, however, that “a big celebration will take place there” when “the time comes.”

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