Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday vowed that “as in 1945, victory will be ours” on the eve of Moscow’s plans for a flashy World War II victory commemoration.
Putin leads commemorations Monday of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany, but Ukraine, under unrelenting attack, is desperate to deny Moscow any sense of military invigoration.
Putin is expected to flaunt Russia’s military might during the symbolically important event. Huge intercontinental ballistic missiles will be towed for official review through Moscow’s Red Square, and a planned flyover will feature fighter jets in a “Z” formation showing support for the war.
The Victory Day parade is a longtime tradition in Russia, but Monday’s has taken on great prominence as Putin seeks to justify a war that has gone on far longer — and at far higher cost — than expected.
Putin has sought to legitimize the invasion by comparing it with the previous struggle against Nazism and the national pride it brought.
“Today, our soldiers, as their ancestors, are fighting side by side to liberate their native land from the Nazi filth with the confidence that, as in 1945, victory will be ours,” Putin said.
“Today, it is our common duty to prevent the rebirth of Nazism which caused so much suffering to the peoples of different countries,” said Putin. He added he hoped “new generations may be worthy of the memory of their fathers and grandfathers”.
Putin also made multiple references not just to soldiers but also to civilians on the “home front… who smashed Nazism at the cost of countless sacrifices.”
“Sadly, today, Nazism is rearing its head once more,” charged Putin who has insisted that Ukraine is in the grip of fascism and a threat to Russia and the Russian-speaking minority in Ukraine’s east which Moscow claims to be “liberating.”
“Our sacred duty is to hold back the ideological successors of those who were defeated” in World War II, which Moscow dubs “the great patriotic war,” said Putin, as he urged Russians to “take revenge.”
He also said he wished “all Ukraine’s inhabitants a peaceful and just future.”
Under Putin, Russia has justified its offensive in Ukraine, launched on February 24, as a “special operation” to “demilitarise” and “de-nazify” its neighbor, a former Soviet republic that declared independence in 1991.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also marked the end of the 1939-1945 war by comparing Ukraine’s battle for national survival to the region’s war of resistance against its former Nazi occupiers.
“Decades after World War II, darkness has returned to Ukraine, and it has become black and white again,” he said, in a monochrome social media video shot before a bombed-out apartment block.
Zelensky in his nightly video address also confirmed that 60 were killed in a Russian airstrike on a school in the eastern village of Bilogorivka — one of the highest one-day tolls since Moscow’s forces invaded on February 24. That the school attack showed “Russia has forgotten everything that was important to the victors of World War II.”
New visits, fresh sanctions
In the latest shows of Western support, US First Lady Jill Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made unannounced visits to Ukraine, and G7 leaders joined Zelensky on a video call before pledging new backing — including a key vow to ban or phase out imports of Russian oil.
Britain announced more sanctions against Russia — import tariffs on precious metals and export bans.
After Zelensky’s video conference with G7 leaders, the group — comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — said in a statement that Putin’s “unprovoked war of aggression” had brought “shame on Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people.”
The White House said the G7 was “committed to phasing out or banning the import of Russian oil”.
But EU diplomats will meet again next week to hammer out details of their latest sanctions package, after a proposed embargo on Russian oil exposed rifts in the bloc.
Separately, the White House said the United States would slap sanctions on three major Russian television stations and deny all Russian companies access to US firms’ consulting and accounting services.
First Lady Biden met her Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelenska at a school sheltering civilians, including children displaced by the conflict, near Ukraine’s border with Slovakia.
“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” Jill Biden told reporters, saying she sought to demonstrate US support for Ukraine.