Updated May 9, 2022 - World

Putin tries to justify Ukraine invasion in Victory Day speech

A screen shows Russian President Vladimir Putin giving a speech as servicemen line up on Red Square on May 9.
A screen shows Russian President Vladimir Putin giving a speech as servicemen line up on Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on May 9. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin railed against NATO as he spent much of his Victory Day speech in Moscow on Monday trying to justify his troops' invasion of Ukraine, per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Putin didn't use his Victory Day speech to officially declare war on Ukraine or fully mobilize Russia's reservists, as some Western officials feared he would.

  • Instead, he turned his ire and propaganda on the U.S., NATO and the "Nazis" they support in Kyiv — claiming that a clash was "inevitable" and that Russia moved preemptively against Ukraine to defend itself.

What he's saying: In his speech for Victory Day, an annual commemoration of the Soviet Union's defeat of the Nazis in World War II, Putin did acknowledge the loss of Russian troops in Ukraine, the BBC reports. "The death of every soldier and officer is painful for us," he said, pledging to do "everything" to help bereaved families.

A man holds a Russian flag with the letter Z, which has become a symbol of support for Russian military action in Ukraine, during the Victory Day celebrations on May 9.
A man holds a Russian flag with the letter Z during Victory Day celebrations in the far eastern city of Vladivostok on Monday. Photo: Pavel Korolyov/AFP via Getty Images

The big picture: Russia's Defense Ministry said its invasion of Ukraine would form a key part of this year's event, with eight MiG-29SMT fighters flying over Moscow's Red Square "in a flight formation resembling the letter Z in support of Russian troops."

  • The letter has become a symbol of support for the invasion, which AFP notes has taken longer and proven to be costlier than the Kremlin had planned.

Yes, but: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday this aspect of the parade had been canceled, the BBC reports.

Of note: The annual parade showcasing Russia's military power was taking place hours after Ukrainian officials accused Putin's forces of killing 60 people sheltering in a school in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

By the numbers: The Kremlin has said that parades would take place in 28 cities, involving 65,000 people, 2,400 items of military hardware and over 400 aircraft.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky noted in a Sunday night address denouncing Russian shelling that the words "peace" and "never again" were typically associated with Victory in Europe Day on May 8 and Russia's May 9 Victory Day, "which are repeated all over the free world every year on the days of remembrance of the victims of World War II."

  • "Russia has forgotten everything that was important to the victors of World War II," Zelensky added, according to a transcript posted to the presidential website.

Between the lines: The U.K. Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence report Monday that the invasion of Ukraine "has revealed shortcomings" in the Russian military's ability to conduct precision strikes at scale, despite publicly promoting its "ability to conduct surgical strikes and limit collateral damage" at the start of the war.

  • Instead, Russian forces have "subjected Ukraine’s towns and cities to intense and indiscriminate bombardments with little or no regard for civilian casualties," the Defense Ministry said.
  • As the conflict "continues beyond Russian pre-war expectations, Russia's stockpile of precision-guided munitions has likely been heavily depleted," according to the report.
"This has forced the use of readily available but ageing munitions that are less reliable, less accurate and more easily intercepted. Russia will likely struggle to replace the precision weaponry it has already expended."
— U.K. Ministry of Defense
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