MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday at Moscow’s Red Square Victory Day parade that the world was at a “turning point” and claimed a “war” had been unleashed against Russia.
He vowed victory and said Russia’s future “rests on” its soldiers fighting in Ukraine.
The traditional Soviet-style event celebrating Moscow’s victory over the Nazis took place amid security fears, 15 months into Russia’s Ukraine offensive.
“Today civilisation is again at a decisive turning point,” Putin said at the parade, which included elderly veterans and soldiers from Russia’s Ukraine campaign.
“A war has been unleashed against our motherland,” he claimed.
He called for Russia to be victorious: “For Russia, for our armed forces, for victory! Hurrah!”
The Russian leader has increasingly portrayed the campaign in Ukraine as an existential conflict, which he says the West has escalated by supporting the Ukrainian government.
Putin told soldiers taking part in Moscow’s Ukraine campaign, several hundreds of whom were present at the Red Square parade, that “the whole country is with you.”
“There is nothing more important now than your combat effort,” he said.
Sowing conflicts and coups
“The security of the country rests on you today, the future of our statehood and our people depend on you.”
Putin also railed against “Western globalist elites”, accusing them of sowing conflicts and “coups” around the world.
“Their goal, and there is nothing new here, is to achieve the collapse and destruction of our country,” he said.
The longtime Russian leader vowed that Moscow would overcome this.
“But we have rebuffed international terrorism, we will protect the people of (eastern Ukraine’s) Donbas, we will ensure our security,” he said.
This appeared to be a reference to an unprecedented series of attacks on Russian soil in the run-up to the Victory Day parade, a central event under Putin’s rule.
No Western leaders attended Tuesday's parade, which was much reduced in scale and came less than a week after Russia said Ukraine had attacked the Kremlin with two drones in an attempt to kill Putin. Kyiv denied any involvement.
Putin said "Western globalist elites" were sowing Russophobia and aggressive nationalism, while the Ukrainian people had become "hostages to a state coup" and to the ambitions of the West.
Putin said the memory of World War Two was sacred and paid tribute to those who fought against Nazis, including the armies of the United States and Britain, and also to China's fight against the Japanese.
Along with the 1812 defeat of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, the crushing of Nazi Germany is Russia's most revered military triumph, though both catastrophic invasions from the west left Russia deeply sensitive about its Western borders.
"We want to see a peaceful, free and stable future," Putin said, adding that memorials to Soviet soldiers were being destroyed in a number of countries.
"We have repulsed international terrorism, we will protect the inhabitants of Donbas (in eastern Ukraine), we will ensure our security," said Putin, who was joined in Red Square by leaders of several ex-Soviet republics.