“The most sacred date for the Russians” arrived, as the Kremlin had described the Victory Day over the Nazis, which is commemorated this Monday, and Vladimir Putin’s long-awaited speech was more of a justification to his population of his offensive in Ukraine that a clue of its future plans after two and a half months of fighting. “It was the decision of a sovereign, strong, independent country,” the president proclaimed before his troops, dressed in a ribbon of the Imperial Order of Saint George in front of Lenin’s mausoleum, covered despite the fact that the great Soviet victory was being commemorated. Despite concern among Russians that the president would order more sacrifices to boost his military campaign, the president did not announce the feared mobilization.
Putin insisted that he had no alternative but to invade, despite the fact that, when he began his massive deployment around Ukraine in early 2021, he assured that he would not start a war. The escalation entered a new phase in the fall, when more than 100,000 soldiers from all corners of the country moved to its borders. “Russia preemptively repulsed the aggression. It was a forced, timely and the only correct decision”, declared the Russian president, who paradoxically accused NATO of not having listened to his proposals months after the Russian war preparations began.
“In December of last year we proposed to close an agreement on security guarantees. Russia called on the West for an honest dialogue, to seek reasonable compromise solutions, to take into account the interests of each. All in vain,” Putin said before accusing the United States and NATO of having other alleged plans. “There were openly under way preparations for another punitive operation in Donbas, for an invasion of our historical lands, including Crimea. In kyiv they announced the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons,” added the president.
Putin exploited once again some statements made by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, at the Munich Security Conference that took place a few days before the attacks began, on February 24. “If the security of our country is not guaranteed, Ukraine will have every right to believe that the Budapest Memorandum does not work and its entire package of decisions from 1994 is in doubt,” the Ukrainian leader said then, referring to the post-Soviet agreement by the that his country got rid of nuclear weapons in exchange for Russia guaranteeing its territorial sovereignty. Actually, that day Zelensky proposed that his nation receive new security guarantees from the UN Security Council, Turkey and Germany.
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“It is our duty to keep the memory of those who crushed Nazism, who bequeathed us to be vigilant and do everything possible so that the horror of a global war does not happen again,” Putin justified. According to his version of events, the United States and other NATO countries had sent “the most modern weapons” and “hundreds of foreign advisers” to Ukraine, threatening his own country. “Everything indicated that a clash with Stepan Bandera’s neo-Nazis, for whom the United States and its younger partners bet, would be inevitable,” he added, mentioning the Ukrainian ultranationalist who collaborated with the Nazis in World War II in their fight for independence. of Ukraine from the USSR.
To avoid showing the whole country any spontaneous protest, the Russian television signal was broadcast several seconds late. This did not prevent a television from showing its altered menus with the phrase “you have blood on your hands”, according to a capture released by Reuters, and that some journalists from the pro-Kremlin medium Lenta published several articles critical of the offensive on their website.
War for the ‘Russki Mir’
Vladimir Putin stressed that the conflict in Ukraine has a larger dimension and is really a clash with globalization and Western values. “The United States began to talk about its exclusivity after the collapse of the Soviet Union, humiliating not only the entire world, but its satellites. But we are a different country, we will never give up love of the country, faith and traditional values, the customs of our ancestors,” said the president from the Red Square tribune.
This conception of the Russian world is known as the Russki Mir, a concept that goes beyond borders and that legitimizes in the eyes of the Kremlin any military action where “a Russian soul” has to be protected, from the separatist regions of Transnistria, in Moldova, to Georgian South Ossetia, including what until now calls “special military operation for the defense of Donetsk and Lugansk”. After the irruption of its paramilitaries in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Moscow began handing out hundreds of thousands of Russian passports in those separatist territories, despite the fact that it did not recognize them for years and only did so the same week that its troops entered Ukraine. .
The president began his speech by listing different historical battles, from Borodino, against Napoleon, to kyiv and Stalingrad, against Hitler, to underline that “this is how they are fighting these days for our people in Donbas, for the security of our homeland, Russia”.
In the stands of Red Square were not only some of the last remaining veterans of the Great Patriotic War, but also the circle closest to Putin. One of the images with the most symbolic charge was left by the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and his by two companions of him, who have once appeared on the list of possible successors to the president. Kirill, sanctioned by the European Union for his explicit support for the offensive in Ukraine, was accompanied by former President Dmitri Medvedev, one of the voices of the toughest wing of the Kremlin, and by the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, whose popularity soared in Russia for its management of the coronavirus and that in this crisis it has chosen not to burn itself out by moving to a discreet background.
Other military parades
The parade began with the tolling of the campaigns and the arrival of two flags, that of the Russian Federation and the one that commemorates “the assault on the Reichstag in Berlin at the end of the Great Patriotic War”, as narrated by the deep voice of the announcer, who emulated the introduction of Soviet radio that announced the German invasion and its defeat. “This is Moscow!” (Govorit Moskva, in Russian), he proclaimed to the public. Afterward, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reviewed the troops in a convertible car in front of the troops. The general, highly criticized for the development of the offensive, congratulated each unit “for the victory in the Great Patriotic War”, as World War II is known in Russia. They responded with the traditional “hooray!”, the war cry of the Russian army, from victory in battle to bare-chested assault on the enemy. One of the most special moments of the parade was the passing of some soldiers who had just arrived from Ukraine.
Russia has celebrated Victory Day with military parades from one end of the country to the other, from the Asian peninsula of Kamchatka to the bastion of Kaliningrad, in the heart of Europe. However, this year they have been more discreet than the previous ones. In the western military district, in the regions closest to Ukraine, such as Voronezh, the presence of combat vehicles has been suppressed, many of them committed to the front, and only soldiers have paraded.
In the Russian capital, the event was also smaller than in 2021. 129 combat vehicles and 10,000 soldiers marched through Moscow’s Red Square, compared to 191 and 12,000, respectively, in 2021. As tradition dictates, the armored march was led by a T-34, the armored car that formed the backbone of the Soviet armed forces in their Great Patriotic War.
However, clouds prevented two of the most anticipated appearances. On the one hand, a group of veteran Mig-29 fighter planes that had to draw a Z in the sky, the symbol painted on the battle tanks that Russian propaganda has tried to make viral, and on the other an Il-80, “the plane of the Last Judgment”. Also known as “the flying Kremlin”, it is a huge plane equipped with all the necessary means for the president to lead the country from the air in the event of a nuclear war.
After observing a minute of silence in the middle of the speech, Putin announced new aid for the families of the Russian soldiers killed and wounded in Ukraine. However, during his speech he did not mention the feared mobilization that the Russians were commenting on these days and that the Kremlin had repeatedly denied these weeks.
A supposed “Nazi revival”
The debate was in the street. In addition to the official statements by Putin’s spokesman, a few days ago the reappearance on public television of analyst Mikhail Jodarénok, the former lieutenant colonel who predicted in early February that a total offensive like the one undertaken by the Kremlin would fail, drew attention. In his intervention, he considered nonsense the mobilization in the short and medium term. “If we form a new armored division, it will be ready in at least 90 days and it won’t have modern weapons because we just don’t have current equipment in our reserves. Sending troops with yesterday’s weapons to a 21st century war, to fight against NATO’s weaponry, would not be the right thing to do,” he stated.
For their part, the hawks of the Kremlin called for the sovietization of the economy. The secretary general of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, gave an interview a couple of weeks ago to the official bulletin of the Kremlin, Rossiiskaya Gazetawhere he urged that the economy submit to the directives of the head of state.
The former director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), one of the most influential people in the government, drew a world where the United States, “used to walking on devastated land”, has declared a covert war against Russia because it “is not willing to renounce their sovereignty, their own conscience and their culture”, and assured that “history repeats itself” and “a renaissance of Nazi ideas in Europe” is taking place.