Russian President Vladimir Putin is shown on screen as he delivers a speech during the 77th anniversary of Victory Day at Red Square in Moscow, Russia on May 9, 2022.
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president Russian President Vladimir Putin On Monday I tried to defend Russia without provocation Invasion of Ukraine In his annual D-Day address, he urged his troops to victory while invoking Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Speaking before a rally of troops, tanks and military equipment in Moscow, Putin claimed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was necessary because the West “was preparing to invade our lands, including Crimea,” according to statements translated by Reuters.
It is unclear whether Putin is referring to Russia, or territories that Moscow considers Russian. This includes Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and the eastern Donbass region, where Donetsk and Luhansk are located – two pro-Russian “republics”.
Putin provided no evidence for his claims, but used the speech to criticize NATO and Ukraine, and to justify what Russia claims was a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Prior to the invasion, Russia massed nearly 200,000 troops along its border with Ukraine – all the while insisting that it had no intention of invasion. There was little evidence of military aggression from Ukraine towards Russia, but Moscow’s claims to the contrary were seen by many as an excuse to justify its attack.
Russian honor guards march on Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on May 9, 2022.
Kirill Kudryavtsev | Afp | Getty Images
The comments come as Russia celebrates one of the most important events in its national calendar – Victory Day – marking the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Evoking that victory in his speech on Monday, Putin urged the Russian military to victory in Ukraine, saying there was a duty to remember those who defeated Nazism.
“Defending the motherland when its fate is decided has always been sacred,” he said. “Today you are fighting for our people in Donbass, for the security of Russia and our homeland.”
Putin referred to Donbass numerous times throughout the speech, apparently doubling down on Russia’s new strategy to focus on “liberating” Donetsk and Luhansk.
The area has been home to some of the fiercest fighting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, including a number of possible war crimes, such as the bombing of a theater in Mariupol, where civilians were sheltering, killing hundreds of people.
A security guard stands in Red Square before the D-Day military parade in central Moscow on May 9, 2022. Russia celebrates the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany during World War II.
Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images
The southern port city of Mariupol is of particular interest to Putin as it will enable the construction of a land bridge between Russia and Crimea (annexed in 2014) across the Donbass region.
Fighting in the east appears to be escalating, and this weekend Russia bombed a school village in eastern Ukraine killing about 60 people, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday during a speech to leaders of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations in most of the world’s industrialized nations.
Russia has not commented on the latest attack. Previously, it has denied targeting civilian infrastructure despite ample evidence to the contrary.
The Russian invasion sparked international condemnation and a wide range of economic sanctions on key sectors, companies and individuals associated with the Kremlin in the country.
Russian officers walk during a rehearsal for the Victory Day Parade on May 7, 2022 in Moscow, Russia.
tiangbin | China News Service | Getty Images
Yet Putin appeared unrepentant, repeatedly vowing to cleanse Ukraine of what he calls its “Nazi” nationalist leadership – a baseless claim, widely discredited, and seen as Putin’s way of justifying the invasion to a domestic audience.
G7 leaders vowed on Sunday to bolster Russia’s economic isolation, denouncing the invasion, saying in a statement that Putin’s actions “bring shame to Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people,” a reference to the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany.
Zelensky, himself a Jew, posted the title of a video on Sunday that was filmed in front of semi-destroyed Ukrainian apartment blocks in the wake of Russian bombing. In it, the Ukrainian president said that evil had returned, but insisted that his country would not lose the war. “Russia will lose because evil always loses,” he said.
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