An appearance by a “Doomsday” plane designed to protect Vladimir Putin in the event of a nuclear attack was axed from Russia’s Victory Day parade.
The Ilyushin Il-80 was expected to take part in a flyover of Red Square during the celebrations in Moscow yesterday.
It and other military aircraft took part in rehearsals. The Kremlin said the flyovers had been cancelled because of “adverse weather conditions”.
Some analysts suggested the flyovers could have been cancelled due to security concerns.
Nicknamed “the flying Kremlin”, the Ilyushin Il-80 has no windows except in the cockpit and reportedly features a dome that prevents exposure to electromagnetic pulse attacks.
On May 9 each year Russia celebrates Victory Day — a commemoration of its defeat of Nazi Germany. Military parades take place in Moscow and other cities.
The Russian President sought to cast the Kremlin’s military action in Ukraine as a forced response to Western policies and a necessary move to ward off a potential aggression.
He drew parallels between the Red Army’s fighting against the Nazi troops and the Russian forces’ action in Ukraine.
While lambasting the West, Putin gave no indication of a shift in strategies or made any indication that he was going to declare a broad mobilization, as some in Ukraine and the West have feared. Addressing the phalanxes of elite Russian troops filling Red Square, Putin said the campaign in Ukraine was a necessary move to avert what he described as “a threat that was absolutely unacceptable to us (that) has been methodically created next to our borders”.
“The danger was rising by the day,” he claimed, adding “Russia has given a pre-emptive response to an aggression” in what he described as a “forced, timely and the only correct decision by a sovereign, powerful and independent country”.
The Russian leader has repeatedly accused Ukraine of harbouring aggressive intentions with support from the US and its allies. In his speech, Putin again scolded the West for failing to heed Russian demands for security guarantees and a rollback to Nato’s expansion, arguing it left Moscow no other choice but to launch an action in Ukraine.
Despite Russia's efforts to crack down on dissent, anti-war sentiment seeped through.
A few scattered protesters were detained, while editors at one pro-Kremlin media outlet revolted by briefly publishing a few dozen stories criticising Putin and the invasion.
In Warsaw, anti-war protesters splattered Russia's ambassador to Poland with what appeared to be red paint as he arrived at a cemetery to pay respects to Red Army soldiers who died during the Second World War.
Sergei Andreev was ambushed by activists as he arrived at the Soviet soldiers cemetery. Video footage showed paint being thrown from behind Mr Andreev before a protester beside him hurled a big blob of it in his face.
They carried Ukrainian flags and chanted "fascist" at Mr Andreev, while some were dressed in white sheets smeared with blood, symbolising Ukrainian victims of Russia's war.