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Putin arrives in Red Square as Russia’s annual Victory Parade gets underway

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Vladimir Putin has addressed his country’s Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square, claiming that Russia wants peace while accusing the ‘western elite’ of waging a real war against his forces in Ukraine.

His speech, watched by hundreds of uniformed soldiers, military officials and leaders of former Soviet nations, came just hours after another barrage of cruise missiles hit several sites across the border to the west.

‘Today civilisation is once again at a decisive turning point. A real war has been unleashed against our Motherland,’ he said in a reference to his ongoing invasion that the Kremlin portrays as being a proxy conflict with the West.

He welcomed soldiers fighting in Ukraine who were present at the parade, and framed his on-going illegal invasion of as being akin to the Soviet fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War, which came to an end 78 years ago – a false narrative that has nevertheless resonated at home.

‘To Russia! To our brave armed forces! To Victory!’ Putin concluded the speech.

Pictured: Vladimir Putin is seen addressing his country’s Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square today. In his speech, he claimed that Russia wants peace while accusing the ‘western elite’ of waging a real war against his forces in Ukraine

Dozens of Russian service members take part in a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 78th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9

Dozens of Russian service members take part in a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 78th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9

Pictured: Dozens of Russian servicemen gather in Moscow's Red Square for today's parade

Pictured: Dozens of Russian servicemen gather in Moscow’s Red Square for today’s parade

In a major coup for the Kremlin, at least six post-Soviet leaders including the prime minister of Armenia and the president of Kazakhstan travelled to attend the military parade that fetes the Soviet victory in 1945.

Pictures from Moscow on Tuesday morning showed Putin arriving and shaking hands with military officials, before delivering his speech. Hundreds of uniformed soldiers then began their parade, marching through Moscow’s famous square.

Dozens of military vehicles – including tanks, armoured personnel carriers, trucks and intercontinental ballistic missile launchers – also rolled through the city.

State television showed Putin positioned next to World War II veterans.

In his 10-minute speech, Putin repeated familiar messages he has delivered many times in the nearly 15 months of Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

‘We have repulsed international terrorism, we will protect the inhabitants of Donbas, we will ensure our security,’ he said.

He claimed ‘Western globalist elites’ were sowing Russophobia and aggressive nationalism, while the Ukrainian people had become ‘hostages to a state coup’ and to the ambitions of the West. 

Despite ordering his troops across the border in February last year and repeatedly attacking civilian centres in Ukraine, Putin claimed he wanted peace.

‘We want to see our future peaceful and stable. We believe that any ideology of supremacy is not acceptable to us. However, the western elite and globalists are insisting on their exceptional character,’ he said.

‘They [Western countries] are destroying traditional family values that make a person a person, and they are dictating their will to others. Their rule to others. In essence, this is a system of robbing others, and a system of violence.

‘They have forgotten who destroyed that evil, who defended their motherlands, who liberated the people of Europe. We see that in a number of countries.’   

He did not address the challenges facing Russia as its forces prepare for an expected major counter-offensive by Ukraine, or outline any path to victory. 

Putin claims his so-called ‘special military operation’ is an effort to bring about the ‘denazification’ of a belligerent imperial power backed by the west, a narrative that has been refuted by Kyiv and its allies – who say the invasion is an imperialistic land grab by Russia with the goal of eradicating a sovereign nation.

Putin and guests watch the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow on May 9, 2023. - Russia celebrates the 78th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany

Putin and guests watch the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow on May 9, 2023. – Russia celebrates the 78th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech during the Victory Day military parade marking the 78th anniversary of the end of World War II in Red square in Moscow, May 9

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech during the Victory Day military parade marking the 78th anniversary of the end of World War II in Red square in Moscow, May 9

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko (centre) attends a Victory Day military parade on Red Square in Moscow, May 9

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko (centre) attends a Victory Day military parade on Red Square in Moscow, May 9

Pictured: Hundreds of soldiers are seen taking part in the parade on Tuesday, May 9

Pictured: Hundreds of soldiers are seen taking part in the parade on Tuesday, May 9

Russian soldiers march toward Red Square to attend a Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Russian soldiers march toward Red Square to attend a Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Russian service members march in columns before a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 78th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Moscow, Russia May 9

Russian service members march in columns before a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 78th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Moscow, Russia May 9

In the run-up to the sabre-rattling festivities, Russia has witnessed numerous incidents, including explosions derailing trains, fires, a drone attack on the Kremlin and a bombing attack that wounded a fiercely pro-Kremlin writer, Zakhar Prilepin.

More than two dozen cities and towns – near the Ukraine border, but also in more distant Russian regions – have cancelled plans to stage their own military parades over security concerns.

The parade also comes after 14 months of fighting in Ukraine, Russia has little to show for its military campaign.

Putin’s troops have failed to take control of the eastern town of Bakhmut, his military leadership is riven by conflict and Kyiv is again preparing to go on the offensive.

The Kremlin has, however, said that the Red Square parade – which is essential to Putin’s legitimacy – will take place.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that ‘all necessary measures’ were being taken to ensure the safety of the leaders.

Political analyst Arkady Dubnov said that ‘for the first time in many years’ Putin will be surrounded at a Victory Day parade by a number of post-Soviet leaders.

‘Despite the serious weakening of its global positions after February 24, 2022, Russia remains to a certain extent the metropolis of a former empire whose actions have to be taken into account,’ Dubnov said.

The leaders of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Putin’s closest ally – Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko – are all in attendance.

Tuesday also saw Russia unleash a barrage of cruise missiles on Ukraine overnight into Tuesday, hours before the start of the parade.

The Kremlin’s forces launched 25 missiles overnight in a wave of attacks across Ukraine, the Ukrainian air force said, adding that air defence had successfully destroyed 23 of them.

In a Telegram post, the air force said eight Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from carriers in the Black Sea toward the east and 17 from strategic aircraft.

Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers drive in downtown of Moscow, May 9

Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers drive in downtown of Moscow, May 9

Russian servicemen arrive to participate in the Victory Day military parade, to be held at Red Square, in central Moscow on May 9

Russian servicemen arrive to participate in the Victory Day military parade, to be held at Red Square, in central Moscow on May 9

Russian servicemen arrive to participate in the Victory Day military parade, to be held at Red Square, in central Moscow on May 9

Russian servicemen arrive to participate in the Victory Day military parade, to be held at Red Square, in central Moscow on May 9

Russian servicemen arrive to participate in the Victory Day military parade, to be held at Red Square, in central Moscow on May 9

A Russian National guard (Rosgvardia) serviceman stands guard at an embankment of the Moskva river opposite the Kremlin prior to the Victory Day military parade, to be held at Red Square, in central Moscow on May 9

A Russian National guard (Rosgvardia) serviceman stands guard at an embankment of the Moskva river opposite the Kremlin prior to the Victory Day military parade, to be held at Red Square, in central Moscow on May 9

Since coming to power in 2000, Putin has promoted a patriotic cult around the 1945 Soviet victory over the Nazis, used to stoke patriotism and boost his standing as the heir of Soviet power.

The Kremlin has also used the memory of the Soviet war effort to justify its offensive in Ukraine, claiming it is fighting ‘fascists’ supported by the West.

Authorities have scrapped plans to hold so-called ‘Immortal Regiment’ marches that see people carry photos of veterans or family members who died in World War II.

While officials said the events would not take place due to security concerns, Kremlin critics say many Russians could have brought photos of those who died fighting in Ukraine, highlighting the scale of Moscow’s losses.

Ahead of the parade, Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the mercenary group Wagner, issued a series of blistering, profanity-laced videos, blaming Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov for withholding ammunition amid talk of infighting and rivalries.

His statement appeared to row back from comments hours earlier that initial data showed they had begun to get it. 

But Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose forces have spent months trying to capture the eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut, added that he did not want to ‘spoil’ Russia’s big Victory Day parade set for 0700 GMT, and would reveal more details afterwards.

‘The people who were supposed to fulfil the (shipment) orders have so far, over the past day, not fulfilled them,’ Prigozhin said in a video post on the messaging app Telegram.

The Institute for the Study of War has pointed to ‘chain of command problems’ for the Russian army in Ukraine that cast doubt on Moscow’s ability to ‘coordinate a coherent theatre-wide defensive campaign’.

Russia and other ex-soviet states celebrate Victory Day on May 9, while most other European countries mark the date on May 8, due to the time difference when Nazi Germany signed to surrender in 1945.

Western nations that celebrate Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) do so to mark the end of all combat actions in the Second World War, which was officially specified as as 23:01 Central European Time, which was already May 9 in Eastern Europe.

By contrast, Ukraine commemorated the end of World War II together with Europe on Monday, with President Volodymyr Zelensky vowing that Russian forces would be defeated just as Nazi Germany was beaten in 1945.

The Ukrainian leader said the Kremlin was responsible for ‘aggression and annexation, occupation and deportation’, as well as ‘mass murder and torture’. 

Russian military vehicles drive in downtown of Moscow, Russia, May 9

Russian military vehicles drive in downtown of Moscow, Russia, May 9

Zelensky said he had submitted a bill to parliament to formally commemorate World War II in Ukraine on May 8. For years the anniversary was marked on May 9, as it was in Russia and other ex-Soviet countries.

Ukraine will also mark a separate Europe Day on May 9, which promotes peace and unity on the continent, he said.

European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday to mark the celebration of peace and unity, in a symbolic retort to Moscow’s Victory Day parade.

The president of the European Commission travelled on an overnight train from Poland to see President Volodymyr Zelensky and work on Ukraine’s quest for eventual EU membership, a reporter on the train said.

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