Home News Putin seeks to distance himself from Ukraine at Victory Day parade

Putin seeks to distance himself from Ukraine at Victory Day parade


Ballistic missiles rolled across Red Square, fighter jets roared overhead, and rows of foreign dignitaries looked on impassively. Russia’s annual commemorations of the end of World War II kicked off Thursday with a traditional ceremony cherished by millions of Russians, reflecting President Vladimir V. war while trying to restore normalcy on a broader level.

At last year’s Victory Day celebrations, as Russia struggled on the battlefield, Putin said the country was engaged in a “real war” for survival and accused Western elites of seeking to “disintegrate and eliminate Russia.” On Thursday, he made just one reference to the war in Ukraine, using his original euphemism for the invasion, “special military operations.”

On Russia’s most important and emotional secular holiday, he spent more time spouting traditional rhetoric about the sacrifices of Soviet citizens in World War II than railing against modern opponents.

Still, he did not entirely ignore those opponents, renewing familiar criticism and disapproval of what he said were efforts to undermine Russia and accusing the West of “hypocrisy and lies.”

“Revanchism, the misuse of history, attempts to excuse the modern heirs of the Nazis – these are part of the policies used by Western elites to trigger more and more new regional conflicts,” Putin said in an eight-minute speech.

The ceremony itself was slightly more extensive than last year’s simple proceedings, a sign that the country has recovered from the initial shock of the war and is now gaining the upper hand on the Ukrainian battlefield.

During the snowfall, 9,000 troops marched on Red Square, compared with 8,000 in 2023. Dozens more pieces of military equipment were displayed, and some foreign dignitaries were present.

The city center is usually packed with revelers celebrating the festival, but much of it was cordoned off by security services. According to the state meteorological service, temperatures in Moscow on this day were the coldest on record since 1945.

Last year, Putin only hosted presidents from former Soviet republics that fought with Russia against Nazi Germany in World War II. This year, foreign heads of state participating include the presidents of Cuba, Laos and Guinea-Bissau, underscoring Russia’s continued influence in the developing world despite Western attempts to isolate Putin diplomatically.

Mr Putin’s closest foreign ally, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, also attended, along with his dog, a fox terrier named Umka, Join him in the front row parade platform.

Most symbolically, this year’s parade once again featured a fighter jet flyover, leaving a trail in the colors of the Russian flag over central Moscow. The plan was scrapped last year amid escalating Ukrainian drone attacks on the Russian capital.

Those attacks have subsided as Russia has beefed up its air defenses and improved its own drone capabilities. As the parade was ending, drones struck an oil refinery in the Ural Mountains, 750 miles east of Moscow.local governor claims it continues to work fine.

More broadly, over the past year, Russia has stabilized its economy, expanded its military production and organized a steady stream of new recruits, allowing it to regain control of the battlefield after the disastrous first year of all-out war in Ukraine.

Thursday’s parade was still a far cry from the pre-invasion Victory Day pageantry, when more than 10,000 Russian troops marched in traditionally choreographed columns and a steady stream of Russia’s latest tanks, planes and helicopters flowed through Red Square.

But this year’s slightly larger parade still seemed to suggest that the worst turmoil of Russia’s war in Ukraine was over and the conflict had settled into a brutal but predictable pattern.

Putin, who was sworn in for a fifth term as president on Tuesday, has largely succeeded in outsourcing the fight to volunteers who are lured to the front lines by hefty military pay and legal benefits such as criminal pardons and expedited Russian passports. This has allowed most Russians to turn their attention away from the war and benefit from an economy fueled by military spending.

In his speech, he checked off his usual revisionist historical talking points about the rise of neo-Nazism in the West. At one point he mistakenly equated Nazi Germany with Europe as a whole, apparently to draw parallels with his current standoff with the European Union.

He also appeared to mention Russia’s nuclear capabilities against the West, echoing Kremlin orders Earlier this week, its forces conducted drills regarding the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons.

“Russia will do everything possible to avoid global conflict,” Putin said. “At the same time, we will not allow anyone to threaten us. Our strategic forces are always on a state of war readiness.”

As is tradition, missile systems capable of carrying nuclear warheads are paraded through Red Square as part of a display of military equipment.

Each year the parade attracts a self-selected audience. This year, the audience enthusiastically expressed their memory and support for the Russian military, the president, the war and lost ancestors.

“I always cry at marches, and I cried this time too,” said Alyona Britkova, 44, a public relations manager in Moscow. “I cried out of pride for my country, my army. In memory of my grandfather,” she said, who was part of the Soviet army that fought all the way to Berlin.

Britkova said she believed the invasion of Ukraine was a continuation of the same war, a false narrative promoted by Putin to justify violence.

Oleg Matznev Research contribution from Berlin.

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