Putin celebrates hollow Victory Day amid chaos, bickering in Ukraine war

By Caravanserai and AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow on May 9, 2023. [Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik/AFP]

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow on May 9, 2023. [Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik/AFP]

MOSCOW -- While Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (May 9) attempted to portray a sense of strength and resolve during Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, stark realities in Ukraine and inside Russia overshadowed the much-touted event.

During his brief address to a significantly reduced gathering in Moscow, Putin told columns of Russian military personnel in ceremonial uniform that the country's future rests on Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

"The future of our statehood and of our people depends on you," Putin said standing shoulder to shoulder with elderly veterans and soldiers from Russia's Ukraine campaign.

Since coming to power in 2000, Putin has stoked patriotic fervour around the 1945 Soviet victory over the Nazis, attempting to boost his standing as the heir of Soviet power.

The Kremlin has also used the memory of the Soviet war effort to justify its offensive in Ukraine, claiming it is fighting "Nazis" supported by the West.

Yet the celebrations have been overshadowed by the military's slow gains and heavy losses in Ukraine since the start of invasion in February 2022.

More than 20,000 Russian troops have died and another 80,000 were wounded in five months of fighting in eastern Ukraine, a White House official said May 1.

In the run-up to Victory Day, Russia was hit with several acts of sabotage, including an explosion that derailed a train, a drone attack on the Kremlin and a car bomb that wounded a pro-Kremlin writer.

"All necessary measures" were being taken to ensure the safety of the leaders, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Still more than two dozen cities and towns cancelled plans to stage their own military parades over security concerns.

The governors of Russia's Kursk and Belgorod provinces, which both border Ukraine, cancelled their Victory Day parades too, citing security issues.

In April, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the Moscow parade would have fewer troops and vehicles than in past years.

Wagner accusations

Putin's address was also overshadowed by scathing comments by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the pro-Kremlin Wagner Group mercenary force, who accused Russia's military of repeated failures in Ukraine.

In remarks released at the same time as Putin's speech, Prigozhin accused some Russian forces of abandoning their positions near Bakhmut, the epicentre of the fighting in Ukraine.

"They all fled, exposing the front," Prigozhin said, repeating a vow that his men would leave Bakhmut by Tuesday if the Russian military did not supply more ammunition.

Prigozhin said soldiers were fleeing because of the "stupidity" of Russian army commanders, who he said were giving "criminal orders".

"Soldiers should not die because of the absolute stupidity of their leadership," Prigozhin said.

Wagner has been leading Russia's months-long assault for Bakhmut, a destroyed industrial town in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces have little to show after a winter offensive.

"Why is the state not able to defend its country?" Prigozhin said in a scathing video, in which he also accused Russian military top brass of trying to "deceive" Putin on how the Ukraine campaign was being led.

"If all the tasks are being carried out in such a way as to deceive the commander-in-chief [Putin], then either he will rip your [expletive] or the Russian people will -- who will be angry that the war is lost," Prigozhin said.

He said Ukraine was preparing for an offensive "that will be on the ground, not on TV".

"So far, in our country everyone thinks that everything needs to be done on TV."

'European family'

European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen meanwhile arrived in Kyiv to mark the Europe Day celebration of peace and unity, a symbolic retort to Moscow's Victory Day military parade.

The EC is the executive arm of the European Union (EU).

She met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to work on his country's quest for eventual EU membership.

Zelenskyy has decreed that May 9 would be celebrated in his country as Europe Day, as it is in Brussels, Belgium, spurning the martial Victory Day tradition of the former Soviet Union.

"I very much welcome President Zelenskyy's decision to make May 9 the Day of Europe. Ukraine is part of our European family," von der Leyen told a reporter on her train to Kyiv.

"My presence in Kyiv today on May 9 is symbolic, but it is also the sign of a crucial and very practical reality: the EU is working hand in hand with Ukraine on many issues."

Shortly before she arrived, Ukraine's air force said it had downed 23 out of 25 cruise missiles launched by Russia in the night between Monday and Tuesday.

The air alert in Kyiv ended about an hour before von der Leyen's arrival.

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Those alleged "patriotic" Wagner mercenaries sell their principles cheaper than the Kremlin threats. They are sleek in playing the role of patriots and defenders of Russian interests, but they are ordinary mercenary soldiers willing to kill for money. Is it possible that next time they will start selling their "patriotic" comments with a discount? It's a purely commercial approach to the "loyalty to the Motherland."


A pathetic parade of only one T-34 :)))