The British royals weren’t the only ones scaling back a parade of great pomp and ceremony this week (at least compared to the last Coronation in 1953).

Vladimir Putin presided over Russia’s annual Victory Day celebrations today, in remembrance of the country’s triumph over Nazi Germany in 1945.

This year, however, the usual never-ending stream of military hardware was almost absent.

The parade featured a total of just 51 vehicles in comparison to 131 last year and 197 in 2021. A sole Second World War-era tank rolled down the boulevard in front of the Kremlin. The traditional fly-past was scrapped altogether.

The suggestion is that the more modest display stems from an attempt to conceal losses suffered on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Although both the Moscow and St Petersburg parades went ahead, at least 21 other major cities cancelled their marches, citing security concerns. 

And over in France yesterday, Emmanuel Macron led his own nation’s equivalent celebrations – for Victory in Europe day.  

To limit disruptions amid ongoing opposition to Macron and his highly controversial pension reforms, police banned gatherings around the area of the ceremony in Paris, and in Lyon where the president traveled later in the day. 

Authorities had to be vigilant to ensure that a “casserolade” – the loud banging of pots and pans in protest – didn’t distract from proceedings. In Lyon, police dispersed the rowdiest elements of the protest with tear gas.

France’s pared down pomp is a reflection of a fed-up electorate in a nevertheless healthy democracy.

Russia’s is anything but. In his brief speech, Putin accused the West of provoking hatred, starting the Ukraine conflict, attempting to break up the Russian state and “creating a new cult of Nazism”. 

“Today civilisation is once again at a turning point,” the President said during the 10-minute address, on a podium flanked by veterans of Russia’s wars, past and present. “We have repulsed international terrorism, we will protect the inhabitants of Donbas, we will ensure our security.” He added that Russia’s future “rests on” soldiers fighting in Ukraine, and that Western “globalist elites” had made the Ukrainian people “hostages to a state coup.”

Set against the European backdrop of tear gas and blood-curdling invective, even the staunchest monarchist would find it hard to deny that the Coronation was the best show in town – scaled back or not. 

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