Monday, 13 May, 2024

Putin to mark Soviet Union’s WW2 victory over Nazi Germany

Russian President Vladimir Putin leads commemorations of Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany, but Ukraine, under unrelenting attack, is desperate to deny Moscow any sense of military invigoration.

Putin is expected to flaunt Russia's military might during the symbolically important event.
Putin is expected to flaunt Russia’s military might during the symbolically important event. (AP)

President Vladimir Putin will leadanniversary celebrations of the Soviet Union's victory over NaziGermany as Russian forces fight Ukrainians in one ofthe deadliest European conflicts since the end of World War Two77 years ago.

Putin, Russia's paramount leader since 1999, has in recentyears used Victory Day to needle the West from a tribune in RedSquare before a parade of troops, tanks, rockets andintercontinental ballistic missiles.

A fly-past over the nine domes of St Basil's Cathedral willinclude supersonic fighters, strategic bombers and, for thefirst time since 2010, the Il-80 "doomsday" command plane, whichwould carry Russia's top brass in the event of a nuclear war.

Putin has repeatedly likened the conflict in Ukraine –– which hecasts as a battle against dangerous "Nazi"-inspired nationalistsin Ukraine –– to the challenge the Soviet Union faced when AdolfHitler invaded in 1941.

"Our common duty is to prevent the renaissance of Nazismwhich has brought so much suffering to people of differentcountries," Putin said in a message to the peoples of 12 formerSoviet republics including Ukraine and Georgia.

READ MORE: Russia holds Victory Day parade rehearsal as Ukraine offensive continues

Accusations of Nazism

Ukraine and its allies reject the accusation of Nazism inUkraine and that Russia is fighting for survival against aaggressive West, saying the Kremlin leader unleashed anunprovoked offensive in an attempt to rebuild the Soviet Union.

Putin, who has repeatedly expressed resentment over the waythe West treated Russia after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union,says Ukraine has been used by the United States to threatenRussia.

US President Joe Biden has cast Putin's assault on Ukraine as a fight in a much broader global battle betweendemocracy and autocracy and has repeatedly called Putin a warcriminal. In a speech in Warsaw in March Biden said the formerKGB spy cannot remain in power.

Russia denies Ukrainian and Western accusations that itsforces have committed "war crimes" since the February 24 attack.

READ MORE:Russia's Putin apologises for Lavrov's claims on Hitler: Israel

Haunting past

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

Beside the 1812 defeat of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte,the defeat of Nazi Germany is the Russians' most reveredmilitary triumph, though both catastrophic invasions from thewest left Russia deeply sensitive about its Western borders.

Victory Day is an almost sacred holiday for Russians as mostSoviet families mourn losses. For Russians, the collectivememory of the war is one of the few uncontentious events in atumultuous history riven by contention.

Though Putin has tried to arrest the decline of Russia'sonce mighty armed forces, the conflict in Ukraine hasillustrated weaknesses in the country's military. Losses are notpublicly reported but Ukraine says Russian losses are worse thanthe 15,000 Soviets killed in the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-1989.

READ MORE:Ukraine launches crowdfunding platform to defeat Russia

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