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Putin assails West for unleashing 'real war' against Russia, as it marks Victory Day

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow on Tuesday.
Gavril Grigorov
Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin assailed the West for unleashing a "real war" against Russia, as the Kremlin leader sought to link events in Ukraine with ceremonies marking the 78th anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany.

Russia's Victory Day ceremony traditionally echoes the grand military parades of the Soviet era, yet was scaled back amid the war in Ukraine.

The televised parade featured thousands of goose-stepping Russian soldiers but limited military hardware.

Just one tank — a World War II-era Soviet T-34 model — rumbled across Red Square.

Only a smattering of foreign leaders attended, all of them coming from former Soviet republics still nominally aligned with Moscow.

In his address, Putin drew parallels between the Soviet victory in 1945 and Russian forces battling what he called a "cult of Nazism" today in Ukraine.

"Civilization again finds itself at a decisive, critical moment. A real war has again been launched against our motherland," Putin said.

As if to underscore the comparison, Putin noted Russian servicemen and military families from what the Kremlin calls the "special military operation" in Ukraine were in attendance alongside WWII veterans.

"Today, the security of our country depends on you," Putin said in remarks directed at those fighting in Ukraine. "The future of our statehood and our people depends on you."

Just hours before the ceremony, Russia launched a wave of airstrikes against Ukraine's capital Kyiv, with Ukrainian authorities claiming to have shot down 23 of 25 missiles.

Putin also acknowledged the role of the U.S. and other Western allies in helping defeat Adolf Hitler's armies — even as he accused the "Western elites" of forgetting Russia's sacrifice and now seeking the country's destruction with their unstinting support of Ukraine.

Security was a major concern, with the parade coming just days after two drones exploded inside the Kremlin walls. Moscow claimed it as an "assassination attempt" on President Putin.

Russia blamed the attack on Ukraine and the United States. Both Kyiv and Washington deny any involvement.

Regional Russian leaders called off military parades in at least 20 cities amid concerns over public safety well ahead of the holiday.

The Kremlin also canceled the "Immortal Regiment," a nationwide march in which Russians honor the more than 20 million Soviets who died in the war by marching with pictures of deceased relatives.

Government critics have suggested the Kremlin canceled the event to avoid the optics of Russians holding pictures of modern day soldiers killed in Ukraine.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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