Russia marks WWII victory overshadowed by Ukraine

Morning In America

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday sought to cast Moscow’s military action in Ukraine as a forced response to Western policies and a necessary move to ward off potential aggression.

Speaking at a military parade on Red Square marking the World War II victory over the Nazis, Putin drew parallels between the Red Army’s fighting against Nazi troops and the Russian forces’ action in Ukraine.

While lambasting the West, Putin gave no indication of a shift in strategies or offered any indication that he was going to declare a broad mobilization, as some in Ukraine and the West have feared.

Addressing the phalanxes of elite Russian troops filling Red Square, Putin said the campaign in Ukraine was a necessary move to avert what he described as “a threat that was absolutely unacceptable to us (that) has been methodically created next to our borders.”

“The danger was rising by the day,” he claimed, adding that “Russia has given a preemptive response to an aggression” in what he described as a “forced, timely and the only correct decision by a sovereign, powerful and independent country.”

The Russian leader has repeatedly accused Ukraine of harboring aggressive intentions, with support from the U.S. and its allies — claims Ukrainian and Western officials have denied.

In his speech at the parade, Putin again scolded the West for failing to heed Russian demands for security guarantees and a rollback to NATO’s expansion, arguing that it left Moscow no other choice but to launch an action in Ukraine.

The Russian leader emphasized that the Russian troops were fighting for the country’s security in Ukraine and called for a minute of silence to honor the soldiers who fell in combat. Putin noted that some of the troops taking part in the parade previously have fought in Ukraine.

He said that the troops in Ukraine have been “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.”

The message, however, was interrupted by an apparent smart TV hack, sending many Russian TV users an antiwar note that read: “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children are on your hands. TV and authorities are lying. No to war.”

Similarly, in nearby Poland, protesters took their anger over the war out on Russia’s ambassador to that country, dousing him with red paint as he arrived at an event to honor the Soviet Union’s World War II soldiers, The protesters chanted profanities and called Russian forces killers.

In Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy also marked Victory Day by seeking to inspire his people who have so far successfully kept the Russians from taking any major city.

“On the day of the victory over Nazism, we’re fighting for a new victory. The road to it is difficult. We have no doubt we will win,” he said in a TV ad.

The Soviet Union lost a staggering 27 million people in World War II, which it calls the Great Patriotic War. The conflict, which devastated the country and caused enormous suffering, has left a deep scar in the national psyche.

Some in Ukraine and the West expected Putin to use his speech at the parade to switch from describing the Russian action in Ukraine as a “special military operation” to calling it a war.

Putin didn’t make any such shift in rhetoric or give any indication that the Kremlin may change its strategy and declare a broad mobilization to beef up the ranks.

Speaking on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Monday, retired Col. Mark Cancian said he does not believe Putin ever will change his posture in this regard.

“Not unless something changes dramatically on the battlefield. This was his great opportunity,” Cancian said. “If he wants to do that — he didn’t.”

“He didn’t announce mobilization, he didn’t announce a declaration of war and he didn’t announce an annexation of those parts of Ukraine that the Russians have taken over,” Cancian continued.

The Kremlin has focused on Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas, where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014. That conflict erupted weeks after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The Russian military has rearmed and resupplied its forces withdrawn from areas near Kyiv and other regions in Ukraine’s northeast and moved them to Donbas in an apparent attempt to encircle and destroy the most capable and seasoned Ukrainian troops concentrated there.

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