Despite Putin’s claims on Tuesday that the Russian people were united in a “sacred” war with the West over Ukraine, celebrating the victory over Nazi Germany was one of the least somber in decades.
Putin frequently invokes the 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union to justify his view of the conflict in Ukraine as a defensive measure against Western efforts to break up Russia.
At this year’s annual Victory Day parade in Red Square, the 70-year-old president spoke to veterans and service members. He claimed that conflicts over the safety of the Mother Country have always been treated as “all-national, and sacred.”
Putin has praised Russian troops in Ukraine, calling them “heroes” who are fighting for Ukraine’s future against a West that has forgotten the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany.
In his speech, Putin blamed anti-Russian sentiment on “Western globalist elites” and said that the people of Ukraine were “hostages to a state coup” and the goals of the Western powers.
Putin, however, also expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the United States, Britain, and other Allies in the fight against the Nazis and China’s actions in the battle against the Japanese.
There was a lot less military gear on display and no aviation present at this year’s commemoration, but it didn’t stop Red Square from erupting in cheers as the Russian national anthem and a cannon salute were performed. There was only one tank, a T-34 from the Second World War.
Many of the 27 million people who died for the Soviet Union during WWII were Ukrainians. After the Nazis were driven back to Berlin in 1945, the Red Soviet Victory Banner was raised atop the Reichstag.
Crimea and its allies have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of starting a war with Ukraine without provocation, and the Ukrainian capital has echoed this accusation. Putin’s statements that NATO’s extension to Russia’s borders threatens Russian security and justifies Moscow’s invasion are unfounded.
As many as 354,000 Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured in the Ukraine conflict, which is now in its 15th month and could quickly grind on well into 2023, according to a stockpile of purported U.S. intelligence data posted online.