Western officials believe Putin could make a big announcement (Picture: EPA)
Vladimir Putin will send a ‘doomsday’ warning to the West when he leads Russia’s Victory Day celebrations on Monday.
Putin, 69, will speak on Red Square before a parade of troops, tanks, rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles in a show of strength and defiance as the war in Ukraine rages on.
A fly-past over St Basil’s Cathedral will include supersonic fighters, Tu-160 strategic bombers and – for the first time since 2010 – the Il-80 ‘doomsday’ command plane, which would carry Russia’s top brass in the event of a nuclear war, the Defence Ministry said.
In that scenario, the Il-80 is designed to become the roaming command centre for the Russian president. It is packed with technology but specific details are Russian state secrets.
Western officials have said they have been told Russia is ‘not inviting’ foreign leaders to celebrate Victory Day on May 9.
The ‘unusual’ move follows increasing tensions between Russia and other nations following its invasion and subsequent war with Ukraine in February.
Officials said that the national holiday, which is usually reserved to commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, may be used by Putin to set out why the attacks have been successful.
They added they feared he will ‘continue to distort history’, which is ‘divisive’.
A military band attends the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in downtown Moscow in 2019 (Picture: AFP via Getty)
T-34 Soviet-era tanks drive during the Victory Day Parade in Red Square in Moscow in 2020 (Picture: Reuters)
Russian military armoured vehicles during the Victory Day military parade last year (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock)
A Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile launchers drive during the annual Victory Day parade in Red Square in Moscow in 2008 (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock)
There could be a big announcement, the officials said, however it is unlikely to be a war declaration or mass mobilisation, which has been denied by the Kremlin, as officials have not seen any signs to indicate preparation is under way for either.
Meanwhile, Ukraine said just 50 civilians were evacuated from a bombed-out steelworks in the city of Mariupol on Friday, accusing Russia of violating a truce intended to allow all those trapped beneath the plant to depart after weeks under siege.
Mariupol has endured the most destructive bombardment of the 10-week-old war, and the sprawling Soviet-era Azovstal plant is the last part of the city – a strategic southern port on the Azov Sea – still in the hands of Ukrainian fighters.
There has been speculation Putin wants to finish the battle for the city by Monday in order to present a triumph to the Russian people.
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