President Vladimir Putin will send an “apocalyptic warning” to the West as he leads celebrations on Monday marking the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, wielding Russia’s vast firepower as its forces battle in Ukraine.
Defiant in the face of deep Western isolation since he ordered the invasion of his Russian neighbour, Putin will speak in Red Square in front of a parade of troops, tanks, rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Visitors take photos in Moscow’s Red Square of the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, this Saturday (27), at Earth Hour 2021 — Photo: Pavel Golovkin/AP Photo
A flyby over Saint Basil’s Cathedral will include supersonic fighter jets, Tu-160 strategic bombers and, for the first time since 2010, the Il-80 “doomsday” command plane, which would carry Russia’s high echelons in the event of a nuclear war, said the Ministry of Defense.
In this scenario, the Il-80 was designed to become the Russian president’s mobile command center. It’s packed with technology, but specific details are Russian state secrets.
The 69-year-old Kremlin leader has repeatedly compared the war in Ukraine to the challenge the Soviet Union faced when Adolf Hitler’s Nazis invaded in 1941.
“The attempt to appease the aggressor on the eve of the Great Patriotic War turned out to be a mistake that cost our people dearly,” Putin said Feb. 24 when he announced what he called a special military operation in Ukraine.
3/21 – Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) signs documents officializing the process of incorporating the Crimea region into the country after a referendum in which the vast majority opted for separation from Ukraine — Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/ Reuters
“We will not make such a mistake a second time, we have no right,” he added.
Putin describes the war in Ukraine as a battle to protect Russian speakers from persecution by the Nazis and to guard against what he calls the US threat to Russia posed by NATO enlargement.
Russian tanks advance over the area near Mariupol, focus of the new phase of the Ukrainian war, along with the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine (Photo: Alexei Alexandrov/AP)
Ukraine and the West dismiss the fascism claim as nonsense and say Putin is waging a war of unprovoked aggression.
The Soviet Union lost 27 million people in World War II, more than any other country, and Putin has criticized in recent years what Moscow sees as attempts by the West to revisit the history of the war to downplay the Soviet victory.
Next to the defeat of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812, the defeat of Nazi Germany is the Russians’ most revered military triumph, although both catastrophic invasions from the west left Russia deeply sensitive about its borders.
The war in Ukraine will cast a long shadow over this Victory Day.
People walk in front of a residential building heavily damaged during the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol (Photo: Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS)
The invasion of Russia killed thousands of people and displaced nearly 10 million. It also left Russia in the grip of tough Western sanctions and raised fears of a wider confrontation between Russia and the United States – by far the world’s biggest nuclear powers.
In addition to 11,000 soldiers marching through Red Square together, the Defense Ministry said there will be 131 pieces of military equipment that will put on a grand spectacle.
The conflict in Ukraine has exposed weaknesses in Russia’s military, despite Putin’s attempt in his two decades in power to stop the conflict.
A Ukrainian serviceman walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine (Photo: Felipe Dana/AP Photo)
The Kremlin was denied a quick victory and the Russian economy – hard-pressed by sanctions – faces the worst contraction since the years following the fall of the Soviet Union.
Less than two decades ago, US President George W. Bush joined Putin for the May 9 celebrations in Moscow. This year no Western leaders were invited, the Kremlin said.
The United States and its allies have increased arms supplies to Ukraine and Putin has received requests from some Russian military personnel to unleash greater firepower in Ukraine, two sources close to the military told Reuters. Moscow has told the West that its weapons supplies are legitimate targets.
Column of cars with missiles in rehearsal for Victory Day in Moscow on May 4, 2022 — Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP
Before May 9, speculation swirled in Moscow and Western capitals that Putin was preparing some sort of special announcement on Ukraine, perhaps a direct declaration of war or even a national mobilization.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected those suggestions on Wednesday, describing them as “absurd”.
The Kremlin did not respond to requests for comment on what Putin might say in his speech. This is to be delivered from the rostrum on Red Square in front of Vladimir Lenin’s Mausoleum.
Last year, Putin criticized Western exceptionalism and what he said was the rise of neo-Nazism and Russophobia – trends he returned to several times when addressing the Ukraine issue.