Putin scolds West, blames NATO for Ukraine invasion during VE Day speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Western policies for Moscow’s military action in Ukraine on Monday, during a speech at Victory Day celebrations in Moscow.

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

He said the campaign in Ukraine was a timely and necessary move to ward off what he described as “an absolutely unacceptable threat right next to our borders”.

“The danger was mounting,” he said, and “Russia preemptively repelled an aggression” in what he described as “a forced, timely and the only correct decision by a sovereign country, powerful and independent”.

He repeatedly claimed that Ukraine was planning to attack Russia, which kyiv categorically denied. The United Nations overwhelmingly condemned the invasion and repeatedly called for the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the Victory Day military parade marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Moscow on Monday. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/Associated Press)

In his speech, Putin again chastised the West for ignoring Russian demands for security guarantees and a return to NATO expansion, arguing that this left Moscow with no choice but to launch an action in Ukraine.

But he has not – at least so far – given any signal as to the next phase of the conflict, nor claimed the complete capture of Mariupol, which his forces have bombarded and besieged for weeks.

A minute of silence was observed in honor of fallen soldiers. Putin noted that some of the troops participating in the parade had previously fought in Ukraine.

Zelensky warns of another attack

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that the VE Day anniversary could bring another onslaught.

“They have nothing to celebrate,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations, said of the Russians, speaking on CNN. “They failed to defeat the Ukrainians. They failed to divide the world or to divide NATO. And they only succeeded in isolating themselves internationally and becoming a pariah state in the world. whole world.”

Putin delivers his speech during Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on Monday. Putin has said what he calls his special military operation in Ukraine was needed to preemptively fend off threats, which Kyiv flatly denies. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/Associated Press)

Many observers had predicted that the May 9 celebrations would include a dramatic announcement from Putin, whether it was an official declaration of war or a nuclear saber blast.

But in his speech, Putin gave no indication of his next steps.

The attack on the Mariupol steel plant continues

As Moscow marked Victory Day, Russian forces continued their assault on Ukraine on Monday, seeking to seize Mariupol, the crucial southern port city.

Determined to show success in a war now in its 11th week, Russian troops have brought down a seaside steelworks where around 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are making their last stand.

The mill is the only part of town that hasn’t been overrun by invaders. Its defeat would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukraine’s army general staff warned of high likelihood of missile strikes and said Russian troops were seizing ‘personal documents from locals for no good reason’ in Russian-controlled areas of Zaporizhzhia – the city where many fleeing Mariupol gathered. The army alleged that Russian troops seized documents to force residents to join in VE Day commemorations.

A policeman keeps Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile launchers ready on the eve of the Victory Day military parade in St. Petersburg on Sunday. (Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press)

“Surrendering to us is unacceptable”

Ukrainian fighters at the steelworks rejected Russian deadlines for laying down their arms, even as attacks continued by fighter jets, artillery and tanks.

“We are under constant shelling,” said Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment, a unit that owns the steelworks.

The Azov Regiment is a far-right armed group that was integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine after the first Russian invasion in 2014.

Lieutenant Illya Samoilenko, another member of the Azov regiment, said a few hundred wounded soldiers were in the factory. He declined to say how many able-bodied fighters remained. Fighters lack lifesaving equipment and have to dig by hand to free people from bunkers that have collapsed under shelling.

“For us, surrender is unacceptable because we cannot bestow such a gift on the enemy,” Samoilenko said.

The last civilians who had taken refuge with fighters at the factory were evacuated on Saturday. They arrived Sunday evening in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine’s first major city beyond the front lines, and spoke of constant shelling, dwindling food, rampant mold – and the use of hand sanitizer as cooking fuel .

The British Ministry of Defense warned in a daily intelligence report on Twitter that Russia was running out of precision-guided munitions and was increasingly using inaccurate rockets and bombs, subjecting Ukrainian cities to “intense and indiscriminate bombardment.” with little or no consideration for civilian casualties”. “

Russian bomb destroys school

In eastern Ukraine, more than 60 people are believed to have been killed after a Russian bomb leveled a Ukrainian school used as a shelter in the village of Bilohorivka, Ukrainian officials said.

Around 90 people were sheltering in the school’s basement when it was attacked on Saturday. While emergency teams found two bodies and rescued 30 people, the governor of Luhansk province said “most likely the 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead”.

A child who fled Mariupol with his family waits in a bus as they arrive at a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Sunday evening. (Francisco Seco/Associated Press)

In the nearby town of Pryvillia, Russian shelling killed two boys aged 11 and 14.

The Luhansk region is part of Donbass, the industrial heart of the east that Russian forces are trying to conquer.

In the south, the Ukrainian army struck Russian positions on a captured Black Sea island in the early days of the war.

But Moscow’s forces showed no signs of backing down. Satellite photos show that Russia has placed armored vehicles and missile systems at a small base on the Crimean peninsula.

The heaviest fighting in recent days has taken place in eastern Ukraine. A Ukrainian counteroffensive in the northeast near Kharkiv, the country’s second city, was making “significant progress”, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.

However, the Ukrainian army withdrew from the besieged eastern town of Popasna after two months of fierce fighting. Rodion Miroshnik, a representative of the pro-Kremlin breakaway Luhansk People’s Republic, said his forces and Russian troops captured most of the city.

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the ruins of a school, center right, after a Russian airstrike in the village of Bilohorivka, Ukraine, on Sunday. Ukrainian officials fear the strike killed around 60 people in the school basement. (Planet Labs PBC/Associated Press)

The Kharkiv regional administration said three people were killed in the shelling of the town of Bogodukhiv, about 50 kilometers from Kharkiv.

South of Kharkiv in Dnipropetrovsk province, the governor said a 12-year-old boy was killed by a cluster munition he found after a Russian attack. An international treaty prohibits the use of such explosives, but neither Russia nor Ukraine has signed the agreement.

New signs of support for Ukraine

As VE Day turned the spotlight on Putin, Western leaders showed new signs of support for Ukraine.

The industrial democracies of the Group of Seven have pledged to ban or phase out imports of Russian oil. The G7 is made up of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan.

WATCH | Ukraine sees an increase in Western support:

The United States announced other new sanctions, cutting Western advertising from Russia’s three largest television channels, banning American accounting and consulting firms from providing services, and cutting off Russia’s industrial sector of wood products, engines industries, boilers and bulldozers.

Jill Biden, wife of the American president, met her Ukrainian counterpart. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raises the Canadian flag at the Embassy in Kyiv. And U2’s Bono, alongside bandmate The Edge, performed at a Kyiv metro station that had been used as a bomb shelter, singing the 1960s song support me.

Acting US Ambassador to Ukraine Kristina Kvien posted a photo of herself at the US Embassy and outlined plans for a possible US return to the Ukrainian capital after the Moscow forces abandoned their efforts to storm kyiv weeks ago.