Russian leader Vladimir Putin told his country during a speech Tuesday to mark the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II that the West was seeking to “destroy” Russia and “cross out the results” of the war, comparing the greater West to Nazis.
The remarks were part of a subdued observance of Victory Day, Russia’s national holiday marking the fall of the Nazis in the Second World War.
Following what Moscow claimed was a Ukrainian attempt to assassinate Putin with a drone over the Kremlin last week, the Russian government announced it would increase security around Victory Day festivities, limit the size of the parade, and do away with the procession of the Immortal Regiment, a tradition in which families march holding photos of their loved ones killed in World War II.
The main #VictoryParade
📍 Red Square, Moscow pic.twitter.com/QKZp1NZC9V
— Russia 🇷🇺 (@Russia) May 9, 2023
The event was noticeably less dynamic than Putin’s reccent large-scale stadium concerts, most prominently the concert organized to celebrate the anniversary of the colonization of Ukraine’s Crimea region last year.
The alleged drone attack occurred in the largest context of Russia’s ongoing, full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which Putin has justified as a “special operation” to eradicate the allegedly “Nazi” government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Russian officials regularly refer to Ukrainian leaders as “Nazis.”
The Russian government claims Victory Day – essentially the same holiday, a day later, as Victory in Europe (VE) day in the West – as a victory exclusively due to the Soviet military’s intervention, erasing the outsized American role in that defeat almost entirely. The Russian Foreign Ministry has for years attempted to bitterly rewrite the history of American forces in that war, declaring, for example, in 2019 that D-Day, the arrival of Americans on the beaches of Normandy, was “not a game-changer.”
According to coverage of Putin’s remarks at the Moscow parade on Tuesday in the Russian news outlet Tass, much of the focus was on Russia’s modern struggle against Western Europe and America, rather than the past war against Germany and its allies.
“We believe that any ideology of superiority is inherently disgusting, criminal, and deadly,” Putin said, accusing “Western elites” of sharing such an ideology with Nazis. Putin said unspecified Western forces “still talk about their exclusivity, put people against each other and divide society, provoke bloody conflicts and coups, sow hatred, Russophobia, aggressive nationalism, destroy those family, traditional values that make humans human.”
“They seem to have forgotten what the Nazis’ insane claims to world domination led to,” he continued. “They have forgotten who defeated this monstrous, total evil, who stood as a wall for their homeland and did not spare their lives for the liberation of the peoples of Europe.”
“They [those who cynically and openly prepared a new crusade against Russia] have as their goal, and there is nothing new about that, to destroy our country, cross out the results of World War Two, finally dismantle the system of global security and international law and stifle any sovereign centers of development,” Putin railed, according to Tass.
Putin referred to Ukrainians as “hostages” to “Western handlers,” condemning the destruction of communist monuments in Ukraine as the sign that “a real cult of Nazis” had hijacked the country.
On Tuesday, Putin welcomed the leaders of several friendly post-Soviet states – Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – to attend the Red Square parade on Tuesday, a diminished version of the traditional event. Foreign observers noted that the Russian government paraded only one tank, which it described as a “legendary T-34 tank” used in the 1940s, in the entire parade, though other armored vehicles did make an appearance. No fighter jets or other military aircraft participated in the Victory Day parade this year.
⭐️ The legendary #T34 main battle tank is one of the symbols of Victory in the #GreatPatrioticWar
Known for its excellent mobility, firepower & reparability, it gave the Red Army the upper hand in armoured clashes against the Nazis
☝️ It is the most mass-produced tank of #WWII pic.twitter.com/hVbmPaf7gc
— Russia 🇷🇺 (@Russia) May 9, 2023
The Russian president has repeatedly used similar occasions to condemn America and Europe, accusing them of seeking the destruction of his country.
“The Western elite does not conceal their goal, which is to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia. It means to finish us forever and grow a local conflict into global opposition,” Putin said during his State of the Nation address in February, a year into the Russian “special operation” in Ukraine. “This is exactly how we understand it all and we will react accordingly, because in this case we are talking about the existence of our country.”
Putin made in clear in September, however, his desire to see “the destruction of this Western hegemony,” railing against gender ideology during a speech intended to mark the colonization of four regions of Ukraine.
“Would you like Mom and Dad in Russia, in our country, to be replaced with Parent Number 1 or Parent Number 2?” he asked, describing the West generally as “Satanic.” “Do we really want our children taught from primary school about perversion and a path to degradation … the idea that there are other genders other than man and woman and ideas about gender reassignment surgery?”
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