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Victory Parade: Vladimir Putin tells Russian troops ‘You are fighting for your motherland’

It is Russia’s ‘duty to keep the memory of those who defeated Nazism’, Putin said

Emily Atkinson
Monday 09 May 2022 19:43 BST
Watch live as Putin attends Russia's annual WWII victory parade

Russian president Vladimir Putin has urged his army towards victory in Ukraine, telling his forces they are fighting to defend “the motherland”.

Addressing the annual Victory Day military parade in Moscow’s Red Square, Mr Putin repeated his argument that Nato was creating threats on Russia’s borders in justification for his invasion.

In a direct address to troops fighting in the Donbas region, which Moscow has pledged to “liberate” from Kyiv, he said: “Defending the motherland when its fate is being decided has always been sacred.

“Today you are fighting for our people in Donbas, for the security of Russia, our homeland.”

Russian honour guards line up before a military parade on Victory Day (Reuters)

Despite having been touted as a potential venue for Mr Putin to offer an update on Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, his 11-minute speech offered no such mention.

Previously, experts thought the celebration, centred around the grand military parade and flypast, could have been used by the president to proclaim victory in Ukraine.

Western officials also warned that Mr Putin could have used the 9 May to officially declare war on Ukraine to quell the alleged outrage felt by Russia’s military over the failures of its assault on the country.

Members of a Russian military band march in Red Square, Moscow (Reuters)
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu attends the military parade (EPA)

If Mr Putin were to declare war on his neighbour, Moscow would be able to draft in more conscripts – which could also be kept for longer than the usual year-long term – impose martial law and make bids for increased support from its international allies, such as Belarus.

But the speech, marking the 77th anniversary of the triumph of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in 1945, was instead used by Mr Putin to repeat his credence that Russia’s military action in Ukraine is a timely and necessary response to western policies.

Putin claims Russian troops in Ukraine are ‘fighting for victory’ of the motherland

He also claimed the west was preparing for an invasion of Russian “lands” and that “enemies” had tried to use “terrorists” against them.

He has repeatedly likened the war – which he casts as a battle against dangerous “Nazi-inspired” nationalists in Ukraine – to the challenge the Soviet Union faced when Adolf Hitler invaded in 1941.

Speaking to massed ranks of service personnel on Red Square, he announced it was Russia’s “duty to keep the memory of those who defeated Nazism”.

Russian servicemen ride military vehicles as they rumble through central Moscow (AFP/Getty)
Ceremonial soldiers commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Mr Putin said: “Despite disagreements in international relations, Russia has always advocated the creation of a system of equal and indivisible security, a system that is vital for the entire international community.

“In December last year, we proposed the conclusion of an agreement on security guarantees. Russia called on the west to enter an honest dialogue, in search of reasonable compromise solutions, to take each other’s interests into account. It was all in vain.”

“Nato countries did not want to listen to us, meaning that they in fact had entirely different plans, and we saw this. Openly, preparations were underway for another punitive operation in Donbas, the invasion of our historical lands, including Crimea.

“In Kyiv, they announced the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons, the Nato bloc began actively taking military control of territories adjacent to ours. As such, an absolutely unacceptable threat to us was systematically created, and moreover directly on our borders.

“Everything indicated that a clash with the neo-Nazis, the Banderites [Ukrainian Nazi sympathisers], backed by the United States and their junior partners, was inevitable.”

Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the Victory Day military parade (EPA)
The Victory Day military parade takes place annually to mark the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany (EPA)

On Russia’s military losses in Ukraine – a figure allegedly around 25,000, according to a call intercepted by Kyiv – Mr Putin said the Kremlin has signed a presidential decree to offer “special support to the children of dead and wounded comrades”.

He added: “The death of each one of our soldiers and officers is our shared grief and an irreparable loss for their friends and relatives. The state, regions, companies and public organisations will do everything to care for and help these families.”

Speaking of Moscow’s fractured relationship with the west, Mr Putin said US veterans had been “practically barred” from attending the parade, but added that he wanted them to know that Russia was “proud” of their exploits and “contribution to the common victory”.

He said: “The United States, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, began talking about its exclusivity, abasing not only the whole world but also its satellites, which have to pretend that they don’t see anything and obediently swallow it up.

Putin says Nato is an ‘obvious threat’ in WWII parade speech

“But we are a different country. Russia has a different character. We will never abandon our love for the motherland, our faith and traditional values, the customs of our ancestors and our respect for all peoples and cultures.

“We honour all the soldiers of the allied armies of the Americans, the British, the French, the participants in the resistance and the partisans of China and all those who defeated Nazism and militarism.”

In a speech coinciding with the Russian parade, British defence minister Ben Wallace accused the Putin regime of “mirroring” the fascism and tyranny of the Nazis. He added that Russian generals were complicit with the crimes of their leader and should be court-martialled.

“Through the invasion of Ukraine, Putin and his inner circle of generals are now mirroring fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago, repeating the errors of the last century’s totalitarian regime,” he said.

Referring to Russian generals, Mr Wallace said: “For them and for Putin there can be no victory day, only dishonour and surely defeat in Ukraine.”

It follows reports of a school bombing in Ukraine’s Luhansk region in which two people were killed, while a further 60 people trapped under rubble were feared dead.

Debris of a school in Bilohorivka that was hit by shelling (Reuters)
Burning debris is seen after a school building was hit (Reuters)

About 90 people are said to have been sheltering in the school when Vladimir Putin’s forces shelled the village of Bilohorivka on Saturday afternoon, causing a fire that engulfed the building, Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said.

Mr Gaidai said 30 people had been rescued from the smouldering debris, but it is thought that many remain trapped underneath it.

“The fire was extinguished after nearly four hours, then the rubble was cleared, and, unfortunately, the bodies of two people were found,” Mr Gaidai wrote in a Telegram post, adding: “Sixty people were likely to have died under the rubble of buildings.”

He said the bomb was dropped on a building where “almost the whole village was hiding” from Russian attacks.

Responding to the news of the school bombing, foreign secretary Liz Truss accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of war crimes.

She said: “Horrified by Russia’s latest attack on a school in Luhansk, resulting in the deaths of innocent people sheltering from Russian bombardment.”

She said the deliberate targeting of civilians and infrastructure “amounts to war crimes” and “we will ensure Putin’s regime is held accountable”.

Mr Putin’s war on Ukraine has killed thousands, razed once-bustling cities to the ground and driven 5 million Ukrainians to flee abroad.

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