President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia had passed its peak of coronavirus infections and ordered that a pandemic post-war victory parade for World War II take place next month.
The postponement of the May 9 victory parade had been a major blow to Putin, who had hoped to gather world leaders to see troops marching in Red Square to celebrate 75 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany.
With the number of new coronavirus cases in Russia steadily declining, Putin asked Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to postpone the parade for June 24.
"According to experts, the climax can be considered passed," said Putin Shoigu in a televised video connection.
"We will do it on June 24, the day that the legendary historic parade took place in 1945," said Putin, referring to the first victory parade in Red Square after Germany was handed over to the Soviet commanders on May 9.
With leaders like China's Xi Jinping and Emmanuel Macron from France, this year's parade was intended as an important example of Russia's return to the world stage.
Putin was forced to announce its delay in mid-April when coronavirus infections increased and officials across the country ordered bans.
After a peak of more than 11,000 new cases per day in mid-May, the number of daily infections fell below 9,000.
On Tuesday, the country had the highest daily death toll at 174 – a figure that is still well below that in countries with similar infection rates – and said 12,000 people had recovered from the corona virus in the past 24 hours.
Russia has the third highest number of cases after the United States and Brazil, which, according to official figures, is largely due to a massive test campaign.
The authorities have eased the blockage despite the high number of infections, although there are strict restrictions in Moscow until at least May 31.
Strict security measures
Putin said "strict security measures" had to be taken for the parade.
"The risks for all participants should be minimized or even eliminated," he said.
Another popular event, which usually takes place on May 9 – the Immortal Regiment processions, where Russians across the country carry portraits of relatives who died in World War II – will take place on July 26, Putin said.
Russian naval bases will also hold traditional naval parades that day, he said.
Putin has made it clear in the past few days that he believes Russia has overcome the worst of the pandemic.
He rarely performed at a meeting in the Kremlin on Monday after working from his Novo Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow in recent weeks.
The pandemic derailed Putin's plans for a triumphant spring. Not only was the parade postponed, but also the vote on constitutional reforms in April that would have paved the way for the longtime leader to possibly remain in power until 2036.
Officials have said they still hope that the vote can take place this year, but have yet to announce an appointment.
The government's handling of the crisis has come under fire. Critics said Putin was initially not interested in the pandemic.
A poll by independent pollster Levada found that Putin's approval rate fell to a historic low of 59 percent in April.
In recent weeks, he has taken a more direct approach and berated officials for not providing enough protective gear or promising medical premiums.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)