Senior Ukrainian officials have dismissed Putin’s accusations that they planned to attack Crimea before Russia launched a special military operation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke today in Moscow’s Red Square during the Victory Day Parade marking the 77th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Soviet Union and the end of the Great Patriotic War.
He said the military operation in Ukraine was a response to the “unacceptable threat” from Kyiv and the West. Moscow must defend itself because Kyiv and its western allies are “ready to invade the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.”
In response to the speech, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to the President of Ukraine, issued a statement that “NATO countries have no intention of attacking Russia. Ukraine has no plans to attack Crimea”.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyi also gave a speech today to celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany. “We are proud of our ancestors who joined other countries in the anti-Hitler coalition to defeat fascism. We will not allow anyone to appropriate this victory. We will not allow anyone named to appropriate this victory.
He listed a number of Ukrainian cities controlled by Russian forces and said that Ukrainians drove the Nazis out of those areas during World War II. Zelenskyy confirmed that the Ukrainian people will soon celebrate two days of victories.
Ukraine was one of the hardest hit countries in the Soviet Union during World War II. Ukrainian cities were heavily attacked and spent many years under occupation, witnessing many atrocities such as the massacre of Jews at Babylon Yar, outside of Kyiv. More than two million Ukrainians were enslaved by the Nazis. About 8 million Ukrainian civilians and soldiers were killed during this period.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the Russian President’s speech showed “strength, threat and an aggressive stance” while the EU was “working to deepen the people-led peace project”.
Meanwhile, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a Putin ally, accused the West of “supporting fascist ideas.”
“Fascists are obsessed with the idea of revenge, but they are unwilling to fight openly against the descendants of the Soviets. That is why they are pumping arms into Ukraine,” he said, reaffirming Belarus as an ally and strategic partner of Russia and promising to support this country in any way possible.
President Putin made no major announcements in his speech, although some observers had predicted that he could use Victory Day to announce an intensification of military operations in Ukraine or to mobilize a general.
Hong Hanh (Corresponding AFP/Reuters)