Source: Daily Mail

Vladimir Putin gave a chest-beating speech to his troops during Moscow’s Victory Day parade today – telling soldiers that they are now fighting for the security of the nation against what he called Western plans to invade.

Seeking to re-frame his war in Ukraine as a war between Russia and the West, he declared NATO to be the aggressor and said he is trying to deescalate the situation with a ‘special military operation’ against a ‘neo-Nazi’ regime in Kyiv, declaring that launching the attack was ‘the only right decision’ he could have taken.

He also sought to twist the truth of what is happening on the ground in Ukraine, hailing a day of ‘great victory’ despite Russia’s battlefield defeats and telling his men they are fighting a just war despite plentiful evidence of war crimes in occupied territories.

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‘Everything indicated that a clash with the neo-Nazis, the Banderites [Ukrainian Nazi sympathisers], backed by the United States and their junior partners, was inevitable,’ he said.

‘We saw military infrastructure being ramped up, hundreds of military advisers working and regular deliveries of modern weapons from NATO. (The level of) danger was increasing every day. Russia preventively rebuffed the aggressor. It was necessary, timely and … right. The decision of a sovereign, strong, independent country.’

Russian troops in Donbas are fighting on ‘their land’, he claimed, peddling his warped world view in which Ukraine is not a real country and Ukrainians are simply Russians waiting to be reintegrated into the motherland.

But he stopped short of what many had feared: An official declaration of war on Kyiv which would have allowed him to mobilise Russia’s military reserves and conscript civilians in order to escalate fighting across the border.

The parade was much slimmed-down from previous years, with an aerial display that was due to feature his ‘Doomsday jet’ – allowing him to continue ruling Russia in the event of a nuclear blast – was axed at the last minute due to ‘bad weather’, though rumours and light cloud in Moscow suggested it could be due to fears of sabotage.

The vehicle parade was also downsized from previous years, featuring almost a third fewer than in 2020 because Russia has committed – and lost – so many of its ground forces in Ukraine.

None-the-less, it still featured dozens of Russian tank, armoured vehicles, and nuclear missiles launchers that paraded alongside thousands of goose-stepping troops before Putin walked to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to lay a wreath as the national anthem played.

It came hours after a similar parade took place in Russia’s far-eastern outpost of Vladivostok, where a Soviet-era motorbike emblazoned with the ‘Z’ symbol that has become synonymous with the Ukraine war took pride of place among tanks streaming Soviet banners.

But even as Putin declared victory in Moscow, fighting was still raging between Russian forces and Ukrainian holding out in the Donbas region – with a fresh artillery barrage striking the city of Mariupol, where an unknown number of Kyiv’s troops are making a last stand inside a steel mill. 

The mill is the only part of the city not overtaken by the invaders. Its defeat would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.

The Ukrainian military’s General Staff warned of a high probability of missile strikes and said that Russian troops were seizing ‘personal documents from the local population without good reason’ in Russian-controlled areas of Zaporizhzhia – the city where many fleeing Mariupol have gathered. The military alleged Russian troops were seizing documents to force residents to join in Victory Day commemorations.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned the anniversary, which marks the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany in 1945, could bring a renewed onslaught.

‘They have nothing to celebrate,’ Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said of the Russians, speaking on CNN. ‘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.’

Speaking Monday at a military parade marking the holiday, Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to justify his invasion, by claiming that it was necessary to ward off what he described ‘an absolutely unacceptable threat just next to our borders.’ He has repeatedly alleged that Ukraine was planning to attack Russia – which Kyiv has flatly denied.

‘The danger was rising by day,’ he claimed, adding that ‘Russia has preemptively repulsed an aggression.’

Putin again scolded the West for failing to heed the Russian demands for security guarantees and a rollback to NATO’s expansion, arguing that it also left Moscow no other choice but to invade.