Striking photos from Victory Day rehearsals show uniformed Russians wearing armbands reminiscent of Nazi outfits, but most online commenters omitted a key detail.
This photo of military cadets rehearsing in St. Petersburg on April 28 for Russia’s upcoming military parade is one of several images that appeared on social media recently pointing out the similarity of the armbands to those worn by German fascists in the 1930s and '40s.
Several high-profile Twitter accounts shared the Russian rehearsal images, with one journalist quipping that the photos gave him “déjà vu.”
Some commenters expressed disbelief at the design choice, given Russia’s stated intention to “de-Nazify” Ukraine as a goal of its full-scale invasion of the country, while others referenced the famous "Are We The Baddies?" meme.
But many of the photos that caused an outcry online are several years old, and photographic archives show that Russia has employed the same armbands since at least 2012.
Armbands with numbers are worn only during rehearsals and do not feature during the annual parade to mark victory over Nazi Germany, observed on May 9.
This image of Russian servicewomen marching during a Victory Day parade rehearsal in central St. Petersburg was made in April 2019 but falsely identified by some Twitter users as being from 2022.
Other images from Russia's 2022 parade rehearsals, such as the photo above, show most participants wearing numbered armbands that do not bear any resemblance to Nazi regalia.
The numbered armbands come in several different color combinations and are presumably worn to help parade organizers direct and critique columns of marching servicemen, women, and cadets during hours-long practice sessions ahead of Russia's Victory Day celebrations.