CNN  — 

Russian President Vladimir Putin led a pared-down Victory Day parade in Moscow on Tuesday as he repeated his false assertion that the West had launched a “true war” against Russia, despite the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Moscow’s Red Square as part of Russia’s annual parade, an exhibition of patriotism marking the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II.

Victory Day is the most significant day of Putin’s calendar, as he has long used it to rally public support, demonstrate the country’s military prowess and rail against the historical injustices he perceives Western nations have heaped on his nation.

The Russian leader has historically led the annual military parade on Red Square with displays of military hardware including tanks, missiles, and other weapons systems, before a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin wall, to honor the memory of those who perished in the battles.

More than 10,000 people and 125 units of various types of weapons and equipment were expected to be displayed at this year’s parade, according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Last year the ministry announced 11,000 people and 131 types of weapons were involved in the military parade, with an airshow of 77 aircraft and helicopters.

But there was just one ancient World War II-era T-34 tank leading the mechanized column on Tuesday, as Moscow seemingly toned down its annual parade.

Tigr-M and VPK-Ural armored vehicles were also on display, but the main focus was the country’s S-400 air defense system and its intercontinental ballistic system – the Yaris.

The usual fly-past above the Red Square was canceled, state media reported, without providing an explanation.

Putin used the annual Victory Day parade to launch yet another scathing attack on the West, accusing it of holding Ukraine hostage to its anti-Russian plans.

“A true war has been unleashed against our motherland,” Putin said on Tuesday, claiming falsely that the West had provoked the war in Ukraine. “We have repelled international terrorism and to fit we will defend the residents of Donbas and secure our own safety. Russia has no unfriendly nations in the West or in the East.”

He also again drew comparisons between the conflict in Ukraine and the fight against Nazi forces in the World War II, saying that civilization is once again at a turning point.

A lone T-34 Soviet-era tank appears at the Victory Day military parade, as Moscow seemingly pared down the ceremony.
In the 2021 Victory Day parade, dozens of tanks are seen moving through Red Square.

Throughout his short address, Putin praised Russian troops fighting in what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, saying the country is “proud” of everyone who fights on the frontlines.

“There is no more important thing now than your combat work,” Putin said.

However, no mention was made of the high casualties suffered by Russian troops, which are estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Strained relations

World leaders such as former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had attended the military parade in previous years. But such displays of solidarity have faded in recent years, after Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 and the war in Ukraine fractured diplomatic ties.