Russian President Vladimir Putin appears on screen as he addresses the 77th anniversary of Victory Day on May 09, 2022 in Red Square, Moscow, Russia.
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In his annual “Victory Day” speech on Monday, President Vladimir Putin sought to defend Russia’s invasion of Ukraine without provocation, while urging Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Speaking ahead of a massive parade of troops, tanks and military hardware in Moscow, Putin said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was necessary because “Western nations are preparing to invade our land, including Crimea,” according to Reuters.
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. This includes Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and the eastern Donbass region, where Donetsk and Luhansk – two pro-Russian “republics” are located.
Putin did not provide any evidence for his claims, but used the speech to criticize NATO and its allies in Ukraine and to justify Russia’s claim of “special military action” in Ukraine.
Prior to the invasion, Russia had amassed nearly 200,000 troops on its border with Ukraine – insisting at all times that it had no intention of invading. There is little evidence of military aggression from Ukraine to Russia, but Moscow’s claims were seen by many as an excuse to justify its attack.
Russian Honorary Guards march on Red Square during Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on May 9, 2022.
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These comments come as Russia commemorates one of the most important events in its national calendar – Victory Day – which marks the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
In his speech on Monday, Putin urged the Russian military to win in Ukraine, saying it had a duty to remember those who defeated Nazism.
“When the fate of the motherland is determined, it is always sacred to protect it,” he said. “Today you are fighting for our people in Donbass and for the defense of our homeland Russia.”
Focusing on Donetsk and Luhansk’s “liberation” seemed to double Russia’s new strategy, Putin repeatedly mentioned Donbass throughout the speech.
The region has been the scene of intense fighting since Russia’s occupation of Ukraine on February 24, including a number of alleged war crimes, shelling of a theater in Mariupol, and hundreds of civilians taking refuge and killing.
A security guard stands in Red Square ahead of Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on May 9, 2022. Russia celebrates 77th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany during World War II.
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The southern port city of Mariupol is particularly important to Putin, as a causeway (annexed in 2014) between Russia and Crimea is being built across the Donbass region.
Fighting in the east seems to be escalating, with President Volodymyr Zhelensky addressing G-7 leaders of the world’s most industrialized nations on Sunday as Russia bombed a village school in eastern Ukraine this weekend, killing 60 people.
Russia has not commented on the latest attack. Previously, it has denied targeting civilian infrastructure, despite numerous sources to the contrary.
Russia’s invasion has provoked international condemnation and widespread sanctions against key sectors of the country, companies and individuals associated with the Kremlin.
Russian officials march during a rehearsal of Victory Day parade in Moscow, Russia on May 7, 2022.
Tiang Bin | China News Service | Getty Images
Putin did not regret repeatedly promising to clean up Ukraine, the so-called “Nazi” nationalist leadership of Ukraine.
G-7 leaders on Sunday promised economic isolation in Russia and rejected the invasion, saying in a statement that Putin’s actions were “an insult to the historic sacrifices of Russia and its people,” citing the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany.
Zelenskyy, himself a Jew, released a video address on Sunday that was filmed in front of half-destroyed Ukrainian apartments following a Russian shelling. In it, the Ukrainian president said evil had returned, but stressed that his country would not be defeated in the war. “Russia will lose because evil will always lose,” he said.
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