President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that Ukraine would not allow Russia to coopt the Allies’ victory in World War II, speaking on the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany.
“Today we celebrate Victory Day over Nazism. We are proud of our ancestors who together with other nations in the anti-Hitler coalition defeated Nazism. And we will not allow anyone to annex this victory. We will not allow it to be appropriated,” the Ukrainian leader said.
Zelensky listed several Ukrainian towns and cities currently under control of invading Russian forces, saying that Ukrainians during World War II had ousted Nazi Germany’s forces from these regions.
“The names of these cities inspire us today. They give us faith that we will drive the occupiers from our land,” Zelensky said in the video address, citing Mariupol, Kherson, and the Crimean peninsula.
“We won then. We will win now,” the Ukrainian president added.
Ukraine was invaded by Russia in late February and Moscow claimed its operation was in part to “de-Nazify” the country, despite the fact that it is a country led by a Jewish president.
Both Ukraine and Russia have likened actions by the other side’s army to those of Nazi Germany, whose defeat by the Soviet Union in 1945 is celebrated in ex-Soviet countries on May 9.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech in which he linked his country’s invasion of Ukraine to the World War II defeat of Nazism.
“You are fighting for the motherland, so that no one will forget the lessons of World War II and there will be no place in the world for hangmen, executioners and the Nazis,” he told troops at the annual parade marking victory over Nazi Germany.
Zelensky has come under fire in Israel for comparisons between his country’s struggle and the Holocaust.
On Sunday, he released a video to mark Ukraine’s Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in which he highlighted what he said is the modern irrelevance of the slogan “Never again.”