In a speech from Red Square to mark Victory Day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the world is again at a "turning point."
"Today, civilization is again at a decisive turning point. A real war has been unleashed against our Motherland," he said during a parade in Moscow on Tuesday.
"The West forgot who defeated the Nazis," he said before going on to repeat his false suggestion that Ukraine is similar to Nazi Germany.
The Russian leader still refers to the war in Ukraine as a "special military operation" saying, "the future of our country depends on it."
He 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 insisted that the West's "untamed ambitions, arrogance and impunity" are to blame for the conflict he started when Russia invaded its neighbor over 14 months ago.
Russia's celebration of the anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany during World War II is overshadowed by Russian battlefield failures in Ukraine, growing tensions with the West and tighter security for the Kremlin at home.
Dubbed Victory Day, this is one of the biggest national holidays in Russia where people commemorate the sacrifices of the Soviet Union and over 20 million Soviet lives that were lost during World War II.
The holiday comes as thousands of Russian military personnel have died since Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022.
Putin did not address the challenges facing Russia in Ukraine but did mention some of the servicemen involved in the war attending the parade.
The Kremlin is also reeling from a slew of drone attacks, including one last week that allegedly was meant to assassinate Putin. An unverified video of the drone attack was circulating on social media which showed a drone blast into flames as it hit the premises.
Given the security concerns, authorities have scaled back the annual parade to exclude the traditional flyover and the "Immortal Regiment" processions, in which people carry portraits of relatives who fought against the Nazis. The Kremlin feared many would carry portraits of those who died in the war in Ukraine and show the extent of Russian losses in the ongoing war.
Who is attending?
Despite a decline in Russia's global standing since the war began, Putin, the target of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant, was surrounded by at least six post-Soviet leaders during the parade. This includes Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Political analyst Arkady Dubnov said "for the first time in many years" Putin will be accompanied by other former Soviet-bloc leaders on Victory Day.
"Russia remains to a certain extent the metropolis of a former empire whose actions have to be taken into account," Dubnov said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "all necessary measures" were being taken to ensure their safety.
Importance of Victory Day to Putin
Since coming into power, Putin has promoted a cult-like reverence around the 1945 Soviet day of victory over Nazi Germany. Most European and other Western countries commemorated the end of World War II's fighting in Europe on May 8 — this year, Ukraine's president also petitioned for his country to change the day it celebrates victory over Nazi Germany.
Putin has repeatedly used the same emotion to justify his war in Ukraine. He claims that he is fighting fascists supported by the West and was provoked by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
In last year's speech at the Red Square, Putin slammed NATO for expanding to Russia's borders and hailed Soviet heroism in resisting Hitler. Since then, Finland — Russia's neighbor to the northwest — has also joined the alliance.
lo,mk/sms (AFP, Reuters)