In Victory Day speech, Putin says ‘real war’ has been unleashed against Russia

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Russian President Vladimir Putin tells a crowd gathered for Moscow’s Victory Day parade that ‘a real war has been unleashed against our Motherland’.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has addressed his country’s Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square, claiming that “a real war” has been unleashed against Russia — a reference to the war in Ukraine that the Kremlin portrays as being a proxy conflict with the West.

“Today civilization is once again at a decisive turning point,” Putin said. “A real war has been unleashed against our Motherland.”

He welcomed soldiers fighting in Ukraine who were present at the parade. “To Russia! To our brave armed forces! To Victory!” Putin concluded the speech.

Putin was surrounded by a number of post-Soviet leaders during the parade. 

Initially, only Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov was expected to attend, but at the last minute on Monday, officials confirmed that the heads of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan would also be in Moscow.  

In the run-up to the festivities, Russia has seen numerous security incidents, including explosions derailing trains, fires, an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin and a bombing attack that wounded a fiercely pro-Kremlin writer, Zakhar Prilepin.

At least 21 Russian cities cancelled 9 May military parades for the first time in years. Authorities have also scrapped plans to hold so-called “Immortal Regiment” marches that see people carrying photos of veterans or family members who died in World War II.

Since coming to power in 2000, Putin has promoted a patriotic cult around the 1945 Soviet victory over the Nazis, used to stoke patriotism and boost his standing as the heir of Soviet power.

The Kremlin has also used the memory of the Soviet war effort to justify its offensive in Ukraine, claiming it is fighting “fascists” supported by the West.

Moscow launches cruise missiles across Ukraine

Meanwhile, Russia unleashed a barrage of cruise missiles on Ukraine overnight into Tuesday, hours before the start of Moscow’s Victory Day celebrations. 

The Kremlin’s forces launched 25 missiles overnight in a wave of attacks across Ukraine, the country’s air force said, adding that its air defence had successfully destroyed 23 of them.

In a Telegram post, the air force said eight Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from carriers in the Black Sea toward the east and 17 from strategic aircraft.