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, May 9, 2022.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday attempted to defend Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in his annual “Victory Day” address, urging his forces to victory while invoking Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany during World War II.
Speaking before a rally of troops, tanks and military equipment in Moscow, Putin said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was necessary because the West “was preparing to invade our country, including Crimea,” according to statements translated by Reuters.
It is unclear whether Putin is referring to Russia or to a region that Moscow considers Russian. This includes Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and the eastern region of Donbass, home to Donetsk and Luhansk – two pro-Russian “republics”.
Putin did not provide any evidence for his claims, but he used the speech to criticize NATO and Ukraine, and to justify what Russia claims was a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Before the invasion, Russia had amassed nearly 200,000 troops along its border with Ukraine – and all along insisted that it had no intention of an invasion. There was little evidence of military aggression by Ukraine against 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.
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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.
Noting the victory in his Monday speech, Putin urged the Russian military to victory in Ukraine, saying it was their duty to remember those who defeated Nazism.
“Defending the homeland 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, our homeland.”
Focus on Donbass
Putin referred to Donbass several times during his speech, and appears to be doubling down on Russia’s new strategy to focus on “liberating” Donetsk and Luhansk.
The region has seen some of the fiercest fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, including a number of alleged war crimes, such as the bombing of a theater in Mariupol, where civilians had sought refuge, 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 in World War II.
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The southern port city of Mariupol is of particular interest to Putin because it will create a land bridge between Russia and Crimea (annexed in 2014), across the Donbass region.
Fighting in the east appears to be escalating, and over the weekend Russia bombed a school village in eastern Ukraine, killing about 60 people, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech on Sunday to leaders of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations in the world’s most industrialized nations.
Russia has not commented on the latest attack. He had previously denied targeting civilian infrastructure despite evidence to the contrary.
The Russian invasion sparked international condemnation and widespread economic sanctions against key sectors of the country and businesses and individuals associated with the Kremlin.
Russian officers walk during a rehearsal for a Victory Day parade on May 7, 2022 in Moscow, Russia.
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Yet Putin has appeared unrepentant, repeatedly vowing to cleanse Ukraine of what he calls its “Nazi” nationalist leadership – a claim that is unfounded, widely discredited, and seen as Putin’s way of justifying the invasion… of the national masses. .
G7 leaders on Sunday vowed to deepen Russia’s economic isolation and denounced the invasion, saying in a statement that Putin’s actions “put Russia and the historical sacrifices of its people to shame,” citing the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat. Nazi Germany.
Zelensky, himself a Jew, posted the title of a video on Sunday filmed in front of Ukrainian buildings that were half destroyed by 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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