Fewer Victory Day military parades scheduled across Russia

Fewer Victory Day military parades will be held across Russia this year, with security cited as the chief concern.

Russia uses the parades to whip up patriotic fervor and rally national unity on May 9, the day it marks the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.

Russian media say parades have been canceled in more than 20 cities as of May 4. Local authorities are believed to be concerned about security, following a series of fires -- allegedly caused by drones -- in Crimea and in regions close to the Ukrainian border.

Regions in Russia that have canceled the parades include Belgorod, Kursk and Bryansk, which border Ukraine in the west. Pskov and Ryazan, which are far from Ukraine, also canceled their parades.

Crimea, which Russia unilaterally annexed from Ukraine nine years ago, has also called off its military parade.

Ukrainian regions that Russia unilaterally annexed last September, including Luhansk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south, won't be holding parades either.

The showpiece parade in Moscow's Red Square will go ahead, along with a speech by President Vladimir Putin. But the procession could be scaled down. Some Russian media said in April that authorities are considering calling off aircraft flyovers this year.

Russian state-run media say the popular Immortal Regiment marches have been canceled nationwide, with security being cited as the main reason.

The event traditionally features civilians carrying placards with photographs of relatives who fought in World War Two.

The British defense ministry suggested last month that the parades were canceled because Russian authorities "were highly likely concerned that participants would highlight the scope of recent Russian losses" in Ukraine.