Russia tightens security on eve of Victory Day holiday as its drones strike Ukraine

Kyiv mayor in front of apartment building damaged by drone attack
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko stands in front of an apartment building damaged by a drone that was shot down during an overnight Russian strike.
(Andrew Kravchenko / Associated Press)

Russia enacted a major security clampdown ahead of Tuesday’s annual commemorations marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, curbing the use of drones, jet skis and car-sharing services in its largest cities amid its 14-month war on Ukraine.

At least 21 Russian cities canceled May 9 military parades — the staple of Victory Day celebrations across Russia — for the first time in years, Russian media said.

Regional officials blamed unspecified “security concerns” or vaguely referred to “the current situation” for the restrictions and cancellations. It was not clear whether their decisions were taken in coordination with the Kremlin.


Last week, Russia — which hasn’t witnessed the carnage endured by Ukraine during the invasion — was rattled by ambiguous official reports that two Ukrainian drones flew into the heart of Moscow under the cover of darkness and reached the Kremlin before being shot down.

Media and local officials have blamed other sporadic drone attacks, especially targeting oil depots near the two countries’ border, on the Ukrainian military. Officials in Kyiv declined to comment on the claims.

The fears of a possible Ukrainian attack appeared real, even though parades will go ahead in Russia’s largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the use of drones has been banned in both cities ahead of Victory Day.

Ukraine’s air force claims to have downed a Russian hypersonic missile over Kyiv using newly acquired American Patriot defense systems.

May 6, 2023

In St. Petersburg, often referred to as “Venice of the north” for its network of rivers and canals, using jet skis in certain parts of the city is prohibited through Wednesday. In the Russian capital, car-sharing services have been temporarily barred from the city center — drivers will not be able to start or finish rides there — amid preparations for the traditional Red Square parade.

Initially, only one foreign leader was expected to attend this year’s Moscow parade: Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov, who arrived Monday and met Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks. That was one more foreign guest than last year, when no leaders went amid Putin’s broad diplomatic isolation over the war. The Kremlin at the time said it hadn’t invited any because it wasn’t a “round-number anniversary.”

But on Monday, officials announced that Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon would be joining Putin and Zhaparov at the festivities, along with Armenia’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and Kazakhstan’s leader, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.


The last two were surprising choices for the guest list as they have in the past diverged from Putin’s line. Kazakhstan and Armenia, though Russian allies, have not publicly supported the war in Ukraine. In fact, Tokayev has spoken to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on the phone several times throughout the invasion.

Ukrainian president Zelensky visits International Criminal Court, which issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes.

May 4, 2023

Tokayev also told Putin last summer that Kazakhstan would not recognize the Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.

Pashinyan snubbed Moscow earlier this year by refusing to host military drills of the Russia-dominated security alliance Armenia is part of, the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

May 9 is normally a public holiday in Ukraine, too, but not this year, because of the war.

Zelensky said Monday that he had sent a draft bill to parliament proposing a Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism in World War II on May 8 and a Day of Europe on May 9, further distancing Kyiv from Moscow.

Zelensky equated Russia’s goals in Ukraine with those of the Nazis. “Unfortunately, evil has returned,” Zelensky said on Telegram. “Although now it is another aggressor, the goal is the same — enslavement or destruction.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is due to travel to Kyiv on Tuesday to mark Europe Day together with Zelensky.

Meanwhile, Ukraine air defenses shot down 35 Iranian-made drones over Kyiv during Russia’s latest nighttime assault, as attacks across Ukraine by the Kremlin’s forces killed four civilians, officials said Monday.

Five people in the Ukrainian capital were injured by falling drone debris, according to Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv City Military Administration. Air-raid alarms sounded for more than three hours during the night.

Wedged between Moldova and Ukraine, the breakaway republic of Transnistria holds fast to its Russian roots but wants to stay out of the war on Ukraine.

May 1, 2023

Drone wreckage struck a two-story apartment building in Kyiv’s western Svyatoshynskyi district, while other debris struck a car parked nearby, setting it on fire, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a Telegram post.

Facing economic sanctions and limits on its supply chains because of its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has routinely turned to Iranian Shahed drones to bolster its firepower.


Russian shelling of 127 targets across northern, southern and eastern parts of Ukraine killed three civilians, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said. Russian long-range bombers launched up to eight cruise missiles at Ukraine’s southern Odesa region, authorities said. One person was killed and three were wounded.

Some of the Soviet-era cruise missiles fired against the Odesa region self-destructed or fell into the sea before reaching their targets, according to Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuri Ihnat.

Russian private military contractor Wagner is busy boosting its brand as its fighters try to subdue Ukraine, trading secrecy for war propaganda movies.

April 25, 2023

Meanwhile, Russian-installed authorities have begun evacuating residents of Tokmak, a town in the front-line southern Zaporizhzhia region, toward the Black Sea coast, Ukraine’s General Staff said.

Those working for Kremlin-appointed local authorities, as well as children and educational workers, are being relocated to Berdyansk, a Russian-occupied seaside city some 60 miles southeast, it said.

On Friday, the Russian-appointed governor of the partially occupied Zaporizhzhia region ordered the evacuation of civilians from 18 settlements there, including Enerhodar, which neighbors the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Speculation has been mounting for months about the timing and focus of Ukraine’s expected spring counteroffensive, with some analysts saying Kyiv might try to strike south into Zaporizhzhia in order to split Russian forces and cut Moscow’s land link to occupied Crimea.