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Putin Remains Defiant Toward West at Muted Victory Day Events


President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is scheduled to address his nation on Tuesday during a celebration of the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II, a closely watched event that could test his government’s ability to stoke patriotic fervor while maintaining a sense of stability more than a year into Russia’s bogged-down invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Putin is scheduled to speak during a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square, which will begin at 10 a.m. local time and is expected to feature typical symbols of Russia’s military might, including tanks, missiles and rows of marching soldiers. The parade will be followed by fireworks on Tuesday night.

Russian state news media said at least six other heads of state would attend the parade, all of them representing former Soviet republics that fought against Germany and its allies in World War II: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Over the years, Mr. Putin has cast the May 9 celebrations not just as the remembrance of a historic victory but as a symbol of defiance toward Western forces he says are trying to destroy Russia. More recently, he has tried to wrap Ukraine into that narrative, falsely depicting it as a Nazi redoubt.

Mr. Putin has a track record of choosing his own time and place for broad policy statements, but many in Russia will be looking at his speech on Tuesday for signs of national direction as war-related violence is reaching even the most poignant symbols of state power.

The spate of attacks — which just in the past week have included two explosions over the Kremlin that Russia said involved Ukrainian drones and an assassination attempt against a prominent Russian nationalist — contributed to decisions by more than 20 Russian cities to cancel their own parades.

Some officials have framed the cancellation of local parades on the most patriotic day of the Russian calender as an act of solidarity with frontline soldiers or of concern for the safety of ordinary citizens, citing the risk that large gatherings could be a target.

But the number of the cancellations — including in Siberian cities thousands of miles from Ukraine — are a sign of the unease wrought by a grinding war that Mr. Putin long framed as a limited “special military operation.”

The Red Square parade presents the Kremlin with an opportunity to dispel such anxieties with a show of defiance and strength.

The parade is likely to be subjected to closer scrutiny than usual, both inside Russia and beyond its borders. Exactly what military equipment participates will be a point of interest. Will there be Russia’s usual display of tanks, which have been decimated by the fighting in Ukraine? And what about the air force?

One of the most dramatic moments of typical May 9 celebrations is a flyover involving dozens of aircraft, which sweep as low as 150 meters above Red Square, trailing smoke in the colors of the Russian flag. This year, the jets have skipped their usual practice runs over Moscow, raising questions about whether they will participate.

In some ways, Tuesday’s celebrations are already deviating from long established ritual, exposing the limitations of the Kremlin’s efforts to maintain a sense of normalcy during a war that is estimated to have claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers.

This year’s commemorations will not feature the usual procession of the so-called Immortal Regiment, during which ordinary citizens take to the streets of Russian cities with pictures of their veteran forebears. Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the march was canceled as a “precautionary measure” against possible attacks.

But some analysts suggested that the Kremlin might be nervous that big crowds at such an uneasy time could have unexpected consequences, potentially in the form of citizens highlighting the recent deaths of family members in the war in Ukraine.