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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, people, same of them wearing face a masks, glasses and gloves to protect against the coronavirus watch as Russian military vehicles roll along Tverskaya street toward Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

MOSCOW -- A Russian military parade postponed by the coronavirus pandemic will roll through Red Square today to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is still registering a steady rise in infections.

President Vladimir Putin's insistence on holding the parade reflects not only his desire to put Russia's power on display but also to bolster patriotic sentiments a week before a constitutional referendum that could allow him to remain in office until 2036.

The Victory Day parade normally is held on May 9, the nation's most important secular holiday. This year's date of June 24 coincides with the day in 1945 when the first parade was held on Red Square after the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Soviet Union and its allies.

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The Soviet Union lost 27 million people in what it called the Great Patriotic War and the enormous suffering and sacrifice of that era has left a deep scar in Russia's psyche.

Victory Day is a rare event in the nation's divisive post-Soviet history that is revered by all political sides, and the Kremlin has used that sentiment to encourage patriotic pride and underline Russia's role as a global power.

The show is particularly important this year for Putin. The Kremlin hopes it will help secure public support a week before the July 1 nationwide vote on constitutional amendments that effectively reset the clock on his tenure in office and will allow him to seek two more six-year terms if he chooses.

"For Putin, the parade has a symbolic meaning, a symbol that the epidemic is over and so the vote can be held," said Dmitry Oreshkin, a Moscow-based independent political analyst. "And even more importantly, Victory Day serves as a positive symbol of people's unification, economic mobilization, strong leadership and consolidation -- the things that Putin wants to claim credit for."

The plebiscite was initially set for April 22 but, like the parade, was postponed by the coronavirus outbreak. When the first signs of a slowdown in the contagion appeared, Putin rescheduled the vote for July 1.

His approval rating plummeted to 59% in April, its lowest level in more than two decades, according to the Levada Center, the nation's top independent pollster.

"Three months later, the ratings will be lower as the economy is going downhill," Oreshkin said. "It's essential to hold the vote right now."

Despite the pandemic, the heads of several ex-Soviet nations and Serbia's president are scheduled to show up today. The celebration will feature 14,000 troops, about 300 military vehicles and 75 warplanes in a display of the country's military might.

Russia has the world's third-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases after the United States and Brazil and still reports about 8,000 new infections a day. Its reported virus death toll is nearly 8,200, a number that experts say is much too low for a country with over 590,000 confirmed cases.

Putin views the war from a deeply emotional angle, often invoking dramatic memories of his parents, Vladimir and Maria, and his brother Viktor, nicknamed Vitya, when the Nazis besieged his hometown of Leningrad, now called St. Petersburg, for nearly 2┬Ż years.

"For my parents, the war meant the terrible ordeals of the Siege of Leningrad where my 2-year-old brother Vitya died," Putin wrote in an article published in the U.S. journal The National Interest. "It was the place where my mother miraculously managed to survive. My father, despite being exempt from active duty, volunteered to defend his hometown."

FILE - In this file photo taken on Saturday, June 20, 2020, a Russian soldier sings a combat song as he marches toward Red Square to attend a dress rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Saturday, June 20, 2020, a Russian soldier sings a combat song as he marches toward Red Square to attend a dress rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Thursday, June 18, 2020, Russian military vehicles prepare to roll along Tverskaya street toward Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade after sunset in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Thursday, June 18, 2020, Russian military vehicles prepare to roll along Tverskaya street toward Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade after sunset in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, May 7, 2019 file photo, Russian military vehicles roll down Red Square Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, May 7, 2019 file photo, Russian military vehicles roll down Red Square Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Saturday, June 20, 2020, Russian soldiers wearing WWII-era uniforms march toward Red Square to attend a dress rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Saturday, June 20, 2020, Russian soldiers wearing WWII-era uniforms march toward Red Square to attend a dress rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Saturday, June 20, 2020, Russian sailors march toward Red Square to attend a dress rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Saturday, June 20, 2020, Russian sailors march toward Red Square to attend a dress rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Thursday, May 9, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the military parade marking 74 years since the victory in WWII in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Thursday, May 9, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the military parade marking 74 years since the victory in WWII in Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Monday, June 22, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, greets a WWII veteran as he arrives to take part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier in Moscow, marking the 79th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Monday, June 22, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, greets a WWII veteran as he arrives to take part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier in Moscow, marking the 79th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Monday, June 22, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, lights a candle after a religion service marking the 79th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, at the Cathedral of Russian Armed Forces in the Patriot Park outside Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Monday, June 22, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, lights a candle after a religion service marking the 79th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, at the Cathedral of Russian Armed Forces in the Patriot Park outside Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, June 9, 2020 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Sberbank chairman German Gref via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, June 9, 2020 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Sberbank chairman German Gref via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia. A massive military parade that was postponed by the coronavirus will roll through Red Square this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, even though Russia is continuing to register a steady rise in infections. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
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