The May 9 military parade was to have been an event of pure pomp and spectacle: a moment for Vladimir Putin to stand in the centre of Moscow’s Red Square and bask in his unchallenged authority. Flanked on either side by his Chinese and French counterparts, Xi Jinping and Emmanuel Macron, the Russian president was to have watched proudly as Russian soldiers marched past in the spring sunshine, their arms locked in salute and their faces turned to their commander-in-chief. 

Instead, Putin will lay flowers at a war memorial in the centre of an otherwise deserted Moscow, and make a video address to a quarantined, concerned and increasingly restless nation.

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