Several Russian cities have announced they will scale back this year’s Victory Day celebrations.
Russian authorities have cited security reasons and attacks from pro-Ukrainian forces for the changes.
Explosions and fires have occurred in Russia in recent weeks.
But some have argued that the reduced events show the Kremlin is nervous about celebrations turning into shows of dissent against its invasion of Ukraine.
Great pomp and shows of military might are the usual hallmarks of Victory Day, which marks the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany on 9 May 1945.
One of the day’s most recognisable events is the Immortal Regiment procession, which sees people across the country marching holding photographs of their relatives who fought in World War Two.
Last year, President Vladimir Putin led the procession across Red Square in Moscow while holding a photograph of his father in uniform.
This year, however, the Immortal Regiment “will be held in other formats for security reasons”, lawmaker and organiser Yelena Tsunayeva told journalists last month.
According to a news release on the Immortal Regiment of Russia’s website, Ms Tsunayeva suggested that those wishing to commemorate their relatives should instead place photos of war veterans in car windows, transfer their image to items of clothing, or change their social media avatars.
Some commentators have said that an in-person Immortal Regiment procession could end up highlighting the number of Russian losses in Ukraine.
Dmitry Kolezev, a journalist and editor of a liberal news website, now living in exile, said that had the procession not been cancelled, people would have “almost certainly come to the Immortal Regiment with portraits of those who died in Ukraine, and the number of recent photographs may turn out to be depressingly large”.
Mr Kolezev also said that the authorities might be concerned that a large gathering of people could snowball into a show of dissent. “History knows of examples when loyal events turned into protests,” he said on Telegram.
Viktor Muchnik, the former editor-in-chief of a Siberian TV network, who has also left the country, said the Russian state was “maniacally suspicious” and was less concerned about a “hypothetical terrorist attack” than it was about damage to its image.
He said that the Kremlin might fear that the procession will show “too many portraits of those who died not 80 years ago, but over the past year”.
“This will give an idea of the hidden extent of the disaster,” Mr Muchnik said in an interview.
Meanwhile, the world-famous parade of military equipment on Moscow’s Red Square, which is traditionally observed by President Putin, will be strictly closed off to the public.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia’s security services were working to ensure the safety of the parade against “terrorist attacks”.
“We are of course aware that the Kyiv regime, which is behind a number of such attacks, terrorist acts, plans to continue its campaign. All our special services are doing everything possible to ensure security,” he said.
Two separate fires at fuel storage facilities have broken out in the last few days in southern Russia and in Russian-occupied Crimea, including one on Wednesday morning in the Krasnodar region near a bridge leading to the occupied Crimean Peninsula.
This week, two separate explosions in the Russian border region of Bryansk derailed freight trains, while power lines were destroyed by a suspected explosive device in Leningrad Region.
Although none of these attacks have been claimed by Ukraine, Kyiv’s military has said that undermining Russia’s logistics formed part of preparations for its long-expected counter-offensive.
Source : BBC