Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russian forces in Ukraine are fighting for the future of their motherland during a speech on Victory Day. At the annual celebration marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, he again claimed that Ukrainian soldiers are “Nazis”.
Defending the motherland has always been sacred, he said, referring to the eastern region, which is now the main focus of Russia’s attack: “Today you are fighting for our people in Donbas, for the security of Russia, our motherland.”
Putin has not announced any changes to his military campaign, but the military parade in Moscow’s Red Square served to channel Russian pride around World War II to rally support for his invasion of Ukraine.
Significantly, he did not declare “victory” in Ukraine. That is, he did not suggest the end of the war, which has lasted more than two months and shows an increasingly weakened Russian army. However, the Kremlin leader also did not reinforce implied threats of nuclear war.
Despite rumors that he would make a big announcement, his speech largely focused on advocating the invasion of Russia. He linked the war in Ukraine to victory in 1945, blaming the West and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for rejecting his security demands.
“They were preparing a punitive operation in Donbas to invade our historic lands. In Kiev, they were saying that they could get nuclear weapons and NATO started exploring the lands close to us, and that became an obvious threat to us and our borders.”
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In a rare acknowledgment of the price of war, Putin said the death of every soldier is a “burden for all of us” and promised his government would do “everything to care” for the families of the dead. He announced a decree for the families of the dead and wounded in Ukraine to receive special support.
In the end, Putin offered few clues about the direction of the conflict in Ukraine in his Victory Day speech. According to Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, the president appears to be “completely out of ideas” on how to proceed.
“Either he doesn’t understand the reality of the situation in Ukraine or he deliberately ignores it,” O’Brien said in a Twitter post. “Without concrete steps to build a new force, Russia cannot fight a long war, and time begins to tighten with the failure of its army in Ukraine.”
Just read this translation of Putin’s speech. Reaction—that’s it? Completely out of ideas. Either doesn’t now understand the reality of the situation in Ukraine, or wilfully ignoring it. https://t.co/V2v318g3q9
– Phillips P. OBrien (@PhillipsPOBrien) May 9, 2022
Russian forces have ramped up their attacks in eastern and southern Ukraine in recent days, firing a barrage of missiles and artillery into the Luhansk region on Monday, although they failed to conquer much new territory.
Ukrainian forces, bolstered by more weapons from the United States and its allies, waged a fierce counter-offensive in the east that forced Russian forces to redeploy to the area around the city of Kharkiv, preventing them from reinforcing operations stalled in other places.
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