• Wed. May 10th, 2023

Vladimir Putin claims ‘real war has been unleashed’ in chilling Victory Day address

Russian President Vladimir Putin has marked Victory Day by blaming Western nations for the war in Ukraine and comparing his invasion of the country to World War II.

Victory Day, Russia’s most important national holiday, commemorates its defeat of Nazi Germany in the 1940s. It typically features a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square.

That parade still happened on Tuesday, though with Russia suffering immense losses of life and equipment in Ukraine, it featured fewer soldiers than usual and almost no modern military hardware. A solitary, Soviet-era T-34 tank, followed by ten jeeps, seemed to project weakness rather than strength.

In total, a mere 50 vehicles took part, about a quarter of the number that would roll through Red Square in a normal year. Russia is reported to have about a thousand tanks remaining in its military, having already lost almost 2000.

More than two dozen towns and cities across Russia cancelled their own parades entirely, citing security concerns.

Putin took his seat for Moscow’s parade at 10am, local time, flanked by the leaders of multiple former Soviet states, including Belarus, Armenia and Kazakhstan.

“Today’s civilisation is again at a decisive turning point. A real war has been unleashed against us again,” Putin said in his speech, adding that “the future of our statehood and our people” hinged on the war effort in Ukraine.

“The goal of our enemies, and there is nothing new here, is to achieve the disintegration and destruction of our country.”

Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine in February of last year, expecting a swift victory, but were instead stymied and pushed back by the Ukrainian military. Russia remains in control of some territory in the nation’s east and south.

Putin claimed “Western globalist elites” were “sowing hatred, Russophobia and aggressive nationalism” and destroying “traditional family values”.

“The Ukrainian nation has become hostage to a coup which led to a criminal regime, led by its Western masters. It has become a pawn to their cruel and selfish plans,” said Putin.

“During the Great Patriotic War, our heroic ancestors proved there is nothing mightier or stronger than our unity.

“The memory of our defenders of the motherland is sacred in our hearts.

“We honour members of the resistance who fought Nazis – soldiers of the allied armies of the US, Britain and other countries. We remember and honour the memory of Chinese soldiers in their battle against Japanese militarism.

“I am convinced that the experience of solidarity and partnership in the days of the struggle against a common threat is our heritage, and a reliable base of support in our movement towards a multipolar world based on trust and indivisible security, and equal opportunities for unique and free development for all nations in the world.”

Putin’s speech was relatively brief, lasting about ten minutes.

Russian division, European unity

In remarks released at the same time as Putin’s speech, the head of the pro-Russian Wagner mercenary group, which has been fighting in Ukraine, slammed Russia’s military and accused it of abandoning its positions near Bakhmut, the current focal point of the war.

“They all fled, exposing the front,” said Yevgeny Prigozhin.

“Why is the state not able to defend its country?”

Prigozhin suggested top Russian military officials had been trying to “deceive” an increasingly isolated Putin with their assessment of the war effort.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursual von der Leyen travelled by train from Poland to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and work on his push for membership in the European Union.

Mr Zelensky had spurned the Soviet Victory Day tradition and declared that May 9 would instead be celebrated as “Europe Day” in Ukraine.

“I very much welcome President Zelensky’s decision to make May 9 the Day of Europe. Ukraine is part of our European family,” said Ms von der Leyen.

“My presence in Kyiv today, on May 9, is symbolic. But it is also the sign of a crucial and very practical reality: the EU is working hand-in-hand with Ukraine on many issues.”

Ms von der Leyen said Russia, the “aggressor”, had “already dramatically failed” in Ukraine.

Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the West not to be intimidated by Putin’s propaganda.

“In Moscow, 2200 kilometres northeast of here, Putin is today deploying his soldiers, tanks and missiles. Let us not be intimidated by such a show of force,” Mr Scholz said.

“Let us be steadfast in our support of Ukraine for as long as it is necessary.”

He warned no one in Europe wanted to “go back to a time when the law of the jungle reigned” and “small countries had to bow to large countries”.

“Our European Union, united in its diversity, is the best insurance that we have to ensure that this past does not return,” he said.

“The message May 9 is not what’s coming from Moscow today. The message is ours. And it is that the past will not triumph over the future. Our future is the European Union.”

– with AFP

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