(CNN) President Vladimir Putin made an aggressive speech at a Victory Day parade In Moscow, accusing the West of waging a “real war” against Russia as the Kremlin staged displays of military might that belied its faltering campaign on the front lines of its unprovoked invasion. Ukraine.
Thousands of people lined the streets of Moscow’s Red Square on Tuesday as part of the annual Parade of Russia Patriotism Gallery Marking the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. On May 8, 1945 (May 9 Moscow time) Germany signed the Instrument of Surrender in Berlin, ending hostilities in Europe. The USSR suffered the largest number of casualties of any country – about 27 million soldiers and civilians killed.
It’s the most important day on Putin’s calendar, as he has long used it to rally public support, display the country’s military prowess and strike back against historical injustices he believes Western nations have inflicted on his nation.
Putin spent most of his speech on Tuesday targeting the West and allies of Ukraine, which resisted a Russian invasion that began in February 2022.
“A real war has broken out against our Motherland,” Putin said on Tuesday, falsely claiming that the war in Ukraine was provoked by the West. “We have repelled international terrorism and for our own good we will defend the people of Donbass and ensure our safety. Russia has no unfriendly countries in the West or in the East,” he added.
He added, “As the majority of people on this planet, we want to see a future that is peaceful, free and stable. We believe that any ideology is superior because of its hateful, criminal and murderous nature.”
“The Ukrainian nation has become hostage to a coup d’état that has led to a criminal regime led by its Western masters. It has become a pawn of their cruel and selfish designs.”
But in light of two recent alleged Kremlin drone strikes, deepening divisions among senior Russian officials over war tactics, and an expected Ukrainian spring offensive, tensions in Moscow have been high ahead of the second show since Russia launched its invasion.
Several regions in Russia — many of them near the border with Ukraine — have scaled back preparations for the May 9 fair due to security concerns and a lack of military equipment to put them on display.
Historically, Putin has led the annual military parade in Red Square with a display of military equipment including tanks, missiles and other weapons systems, before a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin wall, honoring the memory of the Russian president. who perished in battles.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that more than 10,000 people and 125 units of various types of weapons and equipment are expected to be exhibited at the parade in total.
Last year, the ministry announced the participation of 11,000 people and 131 types of weapons in the military parade, with an air show of 77 aircraft and helicopters.
World leaders such as former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan attended the military parade in previous years. But those manifestations of solidarity have faded in recent years, after Putin invaded Crimea in 2014, and the war in Ukraine caused a severance of diplomatic ties.
Moscow will come under pressure to step up its show of defense and unity on the Tuesday after last week Alleged drone strike The Kremlin shattered the most powerful symbol of the Russian presidency.
Kiev and its Western allies have traded barbed notes with Moscow after it accused Ukraine of carrying out orders from the United States in an assassination attempt against Putin. Ukraine and Washington have strongly denied the allegations.
The cause of the explosions is unknown, but the optics of the symbolic attack on the Kremlin have given him an opportunity to drum up support for Putin from Russians while pundits continue to speak out against an all-out invasion of Moscow.
On Monday, Russian oligarch Andrei Kovalev described Moscow’s military campaign as a “terrible war”.
“The whole world is against us,” he said in a video address later posted to Telegram.
Meanwhile, strained relations among Russia’s top officials exploded into a public display of dissension Thursday after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened to withdraw his forces from the city of Bakhmut due to insufficient support from the Kremlin.
Prigozhin appeared To return Despite his remarks on Sunday, however, the sharp outburst indicated a lack of morale as Russian forces struggle to break through the key battlefield in eastern Ukraine – ahead of an expected spring offensive from Kiev in the south.
“Evil is back”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky compared Russia to Nazi Germany as he suggested Moving on D-Day celebrations the day before in a bill presented to lawmakers, in an attempt to distance Kiev from the Kremlin festivities.
Like Russia, Ukraine traditionally celebrates the anniversary of the victory over the Nazis on May 9, but this date is increasingly associated with a parade in Moscow.
On Monday, Zelensky said, “On May 8, most countries of the world remember the greatness of the victory over the Nazis.”
He added, “We will not allow usurping the joint victory of the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, and we will not allow lies, as if the victory could have been achieved without the participation of any country or country.”
Comparing the Russian invasion of Ukraine to Hitler’s expansionist goals, Zelensky said the goal of both regimes was the same – “to enslave or to destroy”.
“Unfortunately, evil has returned,” he said. “As at that time evil rushed into our cities and villages, so it does now, as if then it kills our people, so it does now.”
CNN’s Angela Diwan and Katharina Krebs contributed to reporting.
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