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Cheers rang out across Red Square, with a gun salute and the Russian national anthem, though with a much reduced show of military hardware - and no aviation. Only one tank took part showing the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine on the Kremlin’s military resource.
Undeterred by the reduced showing, Mr Putin said Russians were united in a “sacred” fight with the West over Ukraine that would end in victory, and accused the United States and its allies of forgetting the Soviet triumph over the Nazis in World War Two.
The T-34, an 83-year-old relic, has traditionally opened the annual display of military might because of its symbolic role in helping Russia overcome Nazi Germany.
However, the Soviet-era tank is normally accompanied by more modern fighting machines in a full display of Moscow’s military power.
Spectators from across the world took to social media to mock the Kremlin leader.
One user said: “Just one tank on display during this year’s Victory Day parade! Putin’s traditional show of strength has served to expose the extent of Russian weakness.”
Another added: “If you look well Putin is crying....because this is his last tank.”
“No tanks, no aircraft, no helicopters, nothing... Putin is now leaving. This is really embarrassing for Russia,” a third said.
During Moscow’s Victory Day Parade, only one tank rolled across Red Square 🇷🇺.
I think it is safe to assume that Ukrainian farmers 🇺🇦 now have a larger reserve of Russian tanks. pic.twitter.com/EcvCX1GcFL
— Jason Jay Smart (@officejjsmart) May 9, 2023
According to military analyst Oliver Alexander, Russia had to borrow 10 Remdiesel Ahmat Z-STS from Ramzan Kadyrov to feature in the parade.
He said: “No reason for Ukraine to do anything at the parade. The Russian military is perfectly capable of embarrassing itself.
“I am amazed they couldn't even drag one of the T-14s to the parade.”
No reason for Ukraine to do anything at the parade. The Russian military is perfectly capable of embarrassing itself.
I am amazed they couldn't even drag one of the T-14s to the parade.
— Oliver Alexander (@OAlexanderDK) May 9, 2023
Last year, the traditional T-34 was accompanied by a T-14 Armata and a T-74, two of Russia’s more modern battle tanks, which have both been spotted on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Russia has desperately been attempting to plug its shortfall of tanks by taking older models out of deep storage to send across the border.
Just 10 different weapons systems were on display during the military parade on Tuesday, while the aerial portion, which usually features fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, was cancelled entirely, according to local media reports.
Russia at Tuesday’s parade deployed the smallest number of troops since 2008.
Just 8,000 troops marched across Red Square —that's less than at the Victory Day parade in 2020, which was held six weeks later because of a raging Covid pandemic. Last year, 11,000 troops took part in the parade in Moscow.
No Western leaders attended Tuesday's parade, which was much reduced in scale and came less than a week after Russia said Ukraine had attacked the Kremlin with two drones in an attempt to kill Putin. Kyiv denied any involvement.
Vladimir Putin said “Western globalist elites” were sowing Russophobia and aggressive nationalism, while the Ukrainian people had become "hostages to a state coup" and to the ambitions of the West.
Putin said the memory of World War Two was sacred and paid tribute to those who fought against Nazis, including the armies of the United States and Britain, and also to China's fight against the Japanese.
“We want to see a peaceful, free and stable future,” Mr Putin said, adding that memorials to Soviet soldiers were being destroyed in a number of countries.
“We have repulsed international terrorism, we will protect the inhabitants of Donbas (in eastern Ukraine), we will ensure our security,” said Mr Putin, who was joined in Red Square by leaders of several ex-Soviet republics.
He did not address the challenges facing Russia as its forces prepare for an expected major counter-offensive by Ukraine, or outline any path to victory.