Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday sought to cast Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as a necessary move against “aggression” despite no evidence that Russia was under imminent threat from either Ukraine or NATO. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, for his part, said his country would not allow Russia to appropriate Europe’s victory over Nazism in World War II for his own purposes.
Speaking at a military parade on Red Square marking the World War II victory over the Nazis, Putin drew spurious parallels between the Red Army fighting against Nazi troops and Russian actions in Ukraine.
The Victory Day that Russia marks on May 9 is the country’s most important holiday, celebrated with military parades and fireworks across the county.
Addressing the Russian troops filling Red Square, Putin said the campaign in Ukraine was a necessary move to avert what he described as “a threat that was absolutely unacceptable to us [that] has been methodically created next to our borders”.
Ukraine has made no significant recent moves towards joining NATO and remains years away from membership in the alliance.
“The danger was rising by the day,” Putin claimed, adding that Russia made “a pre-emptive response to an aggression” in what he described as a “timely and the only correct decision by a sovereign, powerful and independent country”.
In his speech at the parade, Putin again scolded the West for failing to heed Russian demands for security guarantees and a rollback to NATO expansion, arguing that it left Moscow no other choice but to launch an action in Ukraine.
The last country to join NATO was the Republic of North Macedonia in March 2020.
The Russian leader has repeatedly accused Ukraine of harboring aggressive intentions, with support from the US and its allies – claims Ukrainian and Western officials have denied.
Putin said that the troops in Ukraine have been “fighting for the Motherland, so that no one will forget the lessons of World War II and there will be no place in the world for hangmen, executioners and Nazis”.
Putin gave no indication of a shift in strategies or made any indication that he was going to declare a broad mobilisation, as some in Ukraine and the West had predicted.
Putin ‘appropriating’ Europe’s WWII victory
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, for his part, said on Monday that Ukraine would not allow Russia to “appropriate” Victory in Europe Day – known as VE Day – for his own political purposes.
“Today we celebrate Victory Day over Nazism. 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,” the Ukrainian leader said.
Zelensky listed several Ukrainian towns and cities currently under control of invading Russian forces, saying that Ukrainians during World War II had also ousted Nazi Germany’s forces from these regions.
“Decades after World War II, darkness has returned to Ukraine. Evil has returned – in a different uniform, under different slogans, but for the same purpose,” Zelensky said in an address on Sunday.
Ukraine was among the former Soviet nations most devastated by World War II.
Ukrainian cities were attacked in the first hours of the Nazi invasion and the country spent several years under occupation, witnessing such atrocities as the Babyn Yar massacre of Jews outside Kyiv. More than 2 million Ukrainian citizens were sent as slave labour to Germany and it is believed the country lost 8 million civilians and soldiers in all.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)
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