Putin warns of global clash as Russia marks victory in World War Two

Published May 9, 2024
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 79th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9. — Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 79th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9. — Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West on Thursday of risking a global conflict and said no one would be allowed to threaten the world’s biggest nuclear power as Russia marked the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

As Russian troops advance against Ukraine’s Western-backed forces, Putin accused “arrogant” Western elites of forgetting the decisive role played by the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany, and of stoking conflicts across the world.

“We know what the exorbitance of such ambitions leads to. Russia will do everything to prevent a global clash,” Putin said on Red Square after Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reviewed troops lined up in a rare May blizzard.

“But at the same time, we will not allow anyone to threaten us. Our strategic forces are always in a state of combat readiness.”

Putin, who sent his army into Ukraine in 2022, casts the war as part of a struggle with the West, which he says humiliated Russia after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 by encroaching on what he considers Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Ukraine and the West say Putin is engaged in an imperial-style land grab.

They have vowed to defeat Russia, which currently controls about 18 per cent of Ukraine, including Crimea, and parts of four regions in eastern Ukraine.

Russia says the lands, once part of the Russian empire, are now again part of Russia.

War

The Soviet Union lost 27 million people in World War II, including many millions in Ukraine, but eventually pushed Nazi forces back to Berlin, where Hitler committed suicide and the red Soviet Victory Banner was raised over the Reichstag in 1945.

“In the West, they would like to forget the lessons of the second World War,” Putin said, adding that Russia honoured all the allies involved in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

He mentioned the Chinese people’s fight against Japanese militarism.

“But we remember that the fate of mankind was decided in the grand battles near Moscow and Leningrad, Rzhev, Stalingrad, Kursk and Kharkiv, near Minsk, Smolensk and Kyiv, in heavy, bloody battles from Murmansk to the Caucasus and Crimea.”

Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender came into force at 11:01pm on May 8, 1945, marked as “Victory in Europe Day” by France, Britain and the United States. In Moscow, it was already May 9, which became the Soviet Union’s “Victory Day” in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45.

In a much pared-down parade indicating the strains of war, Russia showed off just one T-34 tank. Fighters flew past streaming the Russian tricolour.

The parade also featured Russia’s Yars intercontinental strategic missile which a TV announcer said has “a guaranteed capability to strike a target on any point of the globe”.

There were no leaders from the West.

Present were the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Laos and Guinea-Bissau.

Russian officials warn that the Ukraine war is entering the most dangerous phase to date — Putin has repeatedly warned of the risk of a much broader war involving the world’s biggest nuclear powers.

The crisis has deepened in recent weeks: US President Joe Biden signed off on $61 billion in aid to Ukraine; Britain said that Ukraine had the right to strike Russia with British weapons; and French President Emmanuel Macron has refused to rule out sending French troops to fight Russian forces.

Russia responded on Monday by announcing it would practise the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons as part of a military exercise after what Moscow said were threats from France, Britain and the United States.

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