Unrest Marks Victory Day Celebrations in Russia
Russia celebrated Victory Day in flamboyant style on Wednesday with a vibrant and striking military parade running across Red Square in Moscow. The day of festivities celebrated the anniversary of the World War II victory of Russia over Germany 67 years ago. The parade followed closely on the heels of the inauguration of President Vladimir Putin to his third term as Russia’s leader over the weekend.
Clouds hovered over hundreds of uniformed officers marching in precise formations. Tanks and guns were paraded throughout Red Square, where protests and unrest have been staged regularly over the last few months. Protesters against the gay propaganda ban and the destruction of the Khimki Forest have been two recent catalysts for protest, which heralded swift arrests of activists over the last few months.
The weekend of Putin’s inauguration brought about a number of demonstrations aimed at displaying unhappiness with Putin’s return to power. Sunday protesters gathered en masse to dispute Putin’s return to power with at least 70 injuries occurring in the violent clash that ensued between the demonstrators and the riot police. Monday heralded a small sit-in of just over 100 near the presidential administration offices, according to The Moscow Times.
Tuesday marked a day of flash protests and mass arrests as riot police chased protesters down streets and through alleys, detaining demonstrators in riot police vans. Many protesters were arrested repeatedly over the course of the early part of the week.
Arrests and discord continued to mark the mood on Red Square on Wednesday in response to Putin’s return to power over the weekend. According to The Moscow Times, at least 200 arrests were made overnight on Tuesday and into Wednesday as protests continued to plague the days following Putin’s inauguration. Opposition leaders Sergei Udaltsov and Alexei Navalny were numbered among the detainees during the festivities.
Udaltsov claims to have started a hunger strike in protest to his detention and treatment at the hands of the police. Opponents to Putin’s rule argue that he won his seat back through electoral fraud, according to the Tehran Times. Many reports claim that the protesters are responding to the riot police and detention with calm support for each other. According to The Moscow Times, during the early hours on Wednesday, 50 protesters were detained in a peaceful assembly as they were arrested and filed into the riot police vans.
Despite the somber mood cast by the dark clouds and the protests, Putin continued to display his patriotic pride for Russia during the Victory Day parade. He used the opportunity to call for national unity as he reflected on the sacrifices made by veterans during World War II. Putin also emphasized his opposition to United States insertion of missile defense programs on Russian soil, according to the National Post.
While the rather peaceful tactics used by the protesters has effectively kept the number of injuries to a minimum, Putin and his team seem to be ignoring the unrest, preferring to focus on notions of national unity and solidarity to move past the discord set about by his inauguration. Perhaps Putin and his supporters believe the protests, and the accompanying unhappiness with his re-election, will cease if they continue to be squashed by riot police.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons