Vladimir Putin said Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine was a preemptive measure to stave off aggression, accusing the West of “preparing the invasion of our land, including Crimea”.
“The danger was increasing day by day,” he said, adding that Russia’s response was “a forced, timely decision and the only correct decision by a sovereign, powerful and independent country.”
The Russian president made statements about NATO expansion as well as kyiv’s desire to acquire nuclear weapons – which Ukrainian and Western officials have denied and called false – in a speech as he led the anniversary celebrations in Moscow of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
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victory day in Russia – an annual commemoration – is the country’s most important holiday and a source of national pride, marked by a huge parade of soldiers and military equipment in Red Square.
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Putin attacks West’s ‘invasion plan’ – follow the latest updates
But the backdrop to this year’s spectacle of tanks, planes, rockets and missiles is different.
Russian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine – one of the deadliest conflicts in Europe since the Second World War, which Mr Putin called a “special military operation”.
Intense attacks by Russian forces continue across the war-torn country, with ordinary Russians being told they are once again fighting against “Nazism”.
Today’s celebrations began with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu being led around Red Square saluting the troops.
Then President Putin took center stage and told his armed forces that they were now fighting for their country.
“You are fighting for our people in Donbass, for the security of our homeland, its future,” he said, trying to justify the battle in Ukraine.
However, he did not take the opportunity to officially declare war or further mobilize the Russian army.
“The death of every soldier and officer is painful for us,” he said. “The state will do everything to take care of these families.”
He ended his speech with a rallying cry to the assembled soldiers: “For Russia, for victory, hooray!
In pictures: Putin shows off Russia’s military might
Sky’s defense analyst General Lord Dannatt called the parade “ridiculous – in the context of what is happening on Ukraine’s battlefields today”.
“We know how badly the Russian military got away with it,” he said. “That pomp and circumstance looks very professional, but as far as mud and blood in Ukraine goes, it was found to be lacking.”
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: “What President Putin really wants is for the Russian people and the world to be impressed and intimidated by the ongoing memorial of militarism.
“I believe that the ongoing, unprovoked conflict in Ukraine only dishonors those same soldiers.”
“Putin’s potential madness”
The Russian leader’s performance could be a sign of the end of the war, said Sir Tony Brenton, the UK’s former ambassador to Russia.
Speaking to Sky News, the top British diplomat said Mr Putin had recently shown ‘worrying signs’ of ‘losing out’. But he said his speech today was ‘coherent’ and a ‘very professional performance’.
While Sir Tony said he disagreed with the message – which sought to justify invading Russia and hitting NATO – he said he had “pressed all the right patriotic buttons”.
“It’s quite encouraging that it leaves me with the feeling that we are dealing with a rational individual who hopefully, in time, it will be possible to reach a reasonable agreement to end this whole mess,” he said. -he declares.
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Lord Dannatt agreed, saying the question of Mr Putin’s rationality is important because any conflict with a nuclear power like Russia carries the risk that nuclear weapons could be used.
“It’s the irrationality of Putin’s potential insanity that’s the real worry, especially if he’s not doing well. Now he looks pretty healthy to me this morning,” the former said. head of the British army.
He noted that President Putin looked rather “bloated” and struggled to move “freely” as he walked through the parade.