Greek Independence Day events culminate in military parade

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s celebrations for the bicentenary of the start of the nation’s war of independence are culminating in a military parade and warplane flyby in Athens on Thursday, the country’s Independence Day.

But with the country struggling to tackle a renewed surge of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations that have strained the health system to its limits, no spectators from the public are being allowed to attend the parade.

The parade will feature tanks rolling down the avenue in front of Parliament in the Greek capital and military aircraft flying past the ancient Acropolis. It was being attended by dignitaries from Russia, Britain and France, the great powers that provided vital assistance to the nation’s bid for independence from the Ottoman Empire, as well as the president of Cyprus.

Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, French Defense Minister Florence Parly, and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades arrived in Athens on Wednesday for the start of official celebrations.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis kicked off Thursday’s celebrations attending the raising of the Greek flag on the Acropolis, while the dignitaries were to lay wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of Parliament before the parade, which is traditionally led by the members of the ceremonial presidential guard in traditional dress.

Warplanes and military helicopters are to participate in the flyby over central Athens during the parade, including French Rafale fighter jets, of which Greece is buying as part of a major upgrading of its military.

Major avenues throughout central Athens were shut down, while thousands of police were deployed and seven planned protests and rallies were banned.

The Greek independence revolt started in the Mani region of the southern Peloponnese peninsula in 1821 and continued for years without official foreign support, with the Greeks gradually becoming riven by dissent and infighting. In 1827, with the revolution almost squashed, the war fleets of Britain, Russia and France intervened to destroy a Turkish-Egyptian fleet in the Bay of Navarino, in the western Peloponnese.

This crucial blow enabled the Greeks to fight on and eventually gain independence in 1830.