No Sign of Top Russian General Valery Gerasimov at Victory Day Parade

There was seemingly a notable absence from Russia's 'Victory Day' parade in Moscow on Monday—Valery Gerasimov, chief of general staff of the Russian military, was nowhere to be seen.

The yearly parade in Russia celebrates the Soviet Union's 1945 victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Multiple media reports said that Gerasimov was wounded and forced to evacuate from a war zone in Izyum in Ukraine's Kharkiv region when visiting the front lines of the eastern Donbas region at the end of April. However, neither Russian nor U.S. officials have confirmed these reports.

However, the BBC reported and several military experts on Twitter noted that Gerasimov was not present during the parade in Moscow. In an event like this, a senior military figure Gerasimov would usually be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gerasimov is thought to be one of three people, including Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who planned the invasion of Ukraine.

Military historian and president of the Action Resilience Institute, Cedric Mas, noted in a tweet on Monday that Putin hadn't used his Victory Day speech to declare war or mobilization, make nuclear weapons threats, or make "victory" announcements.

"And where is Gerasimov?" he added.

Max Seddon, Moscow bureau chief at the Financial Times, also noted Gerasimov's apparent absence.

Defense Minister Shoigu was seen at Putin's side.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian foreign ministry for comment on Gerasimov's apparent absence.

U.S. officials have confirmed that Gerasimov visited eastern Ukraine.

The New York Times, citing a senior Ukrainian official and two anonymous U.S. officials with knowledge of the visit, reported May 1 that the senior general had gone to Donbas to resolve issues on Russia's front lines.

Russian troops were allegedly suffering from low morale. They have been taking heavy losses since Russia launched the invasion against its neighbor on February 24.

A top-secret report that was delivered to U.S. President Joe Biden said that Gerasimov was in Donbas to push the Russian military to take more areas of the region and end the war as soon as possible. The report also said he was there to convey highly sensitive information about the war and to get a candid view of the progress of the conflict.

Speaking at the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square on Monday, Putin blamed the West for the war but did not directly mention Ukraine. He claimed the invasion was defensive.

"NATO countries did not want to listen to us. They had different plans, and we saw it," he said. "They were planning an invasion into our historic lands, including Crimea. It was a threat we couldn't accept, it was a threat directly to our border."

"There was a threat that was growing day by day. We had to do something, we had to do something and we did it—it was the only right solution we could take," he added.

The event was more muted than past Victory Day events, and a flypast by the air force had to be canceled shortly before the parade because of "weather conditions," the Kremlin said.

Many commentators expected Putin to reference the Mariupol in his speech, possibly to declare victory there, but he did not mention the besieged port city.

Gerasimov and Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov during the annual meeting of the Defence Ministry board in Moscow on December 21, 2021. Gerasimov was not seen at Russia's Victory Day celebrations on March 9. Getty