President Vladimir Putin is attending Russia’s celebration of Victory Day in Moscow, which celebrates the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany in 1945.
The parade in Moscow showed off Russia’s military strength in a bid to galvanise the army in Ukraine and the Russian general public. The occasion, however, will be smaller than usual given a large part of the Russian Army is engaged in the invasion of Ukraine.
President Putin spoke in front of 10,000 troops in Red square at around 10.30 am Belgian time. He did not make any major announcement, such as a general mobilisation of the population, but instead spent most of the speech justifying the invasion of Ukraine: “the forced, timely and only correct decision.”
Putin also claimed, without evidence: “The West was preparing to invade our land.”
He reiterated the claim that Russia is fighting Neo-Nazism, a claim which in the rest of the world will ring hollow after 60 civilians were killed in a school bombing in eastern Ukraine on Sunday.
‘We will not allow victory over Nazism to be appropriated’, says Zelenskyy
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a statement just before Russia began its celebrations in Moscow. He said that Ukraine is fighting again but this time against Russian invaders.
“On the Day of Victory over Nazism, we are fighting for a new victory. The road to it is difficult, but we have no doubt that we will win,” he said in a written address.
Zelenskyy said Ukrainians were a free people who had fought to defend their land many times in history and had their “own path”.
“We are proud of our ancestors who, together with other nations in the anti-Hitler coalition, defeated Nazism. And we will not allow anyone to annex this victory, we will not allow it to be appropriated.”
Russia has nothing ‘nothing to celebrate’, says American ambassador
Russia’s annual celebrations have taken on extra significance but far from liberating Ukraine, Russia has nothing to show for it, said the US ambassador to the United Nations on CNN.
“They have nothing to celebrate,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador.
“They have not succeeded in defeating the Ukrainians. They have not succeeded in dividing the world or dividing NATO. And they have only succeeded in isolating themselves internationally and becoming a pariah state around the globe.”
Putin denied that he will use the event to officially declare war in Ukraine, although he has insisted that Russia will be victorious in Ukraine, comparing the conflict in Ukraine to the Second World War.
Victory Day is for many Russians an opportunity to remember the sacrifices of Soviet soldiers during the Second World War when approximately 27 million Soviet citizens were killed.
Under Putin, it has been coopted to showcase Russia’s modern military and has taken on added significance this year.
Celebrations will take place in 28 Russian cities with almost 65,000 people, roughly 2,400 weapon systems and over 460 aircraft.