- Western officials thought Putin would escalate his war on Ukraine on Monday, Russia’s Victory Day.
- But Putin in his speech didn’t even mention Ukraine by name or hint at new plans for the invasion.
- Russia is focused on controlling the Donbas region of Ukraine, but has sustained heavy losses.
President Vladimir Putin’s “Victory Day” speech passed without a single direct mention of Ukraine or a declaration of all-out war as Western officials had expected.
On May 9, Russia marks the end of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II with a grandiose military parade in Moscow’s Red Square and a speech from the leader.
Given the unique context of Monday’s celebrations, Western officials expected Putin to use his speech to reveal new plans for the Ukraine invasion, which he has so far labeled a “special military operation.”
The UK defense secretary, Ben Wallace, told LBC Radio on April 28 that Putin “is probably going to declare on this May Day that ‘we are now at war with the world’s Nazis and we need to mass mobilize the Russian people.'”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said soon afterwards that it was “nonsense” that Putin would declare war.
However, delivering his speech on Monday, Putin neither made any new declarations about his war on Ukraine nor mention the country by name at all.
Putin praised Russian veterans who fought in World War II and in turn celebrated Russian troops currently fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The Donbas has largely been controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.
Putin went on to slam NATO expansionism and US aggression, and labeled Ukraine and its leaders as Nazis — claims he had used to justify invading Ukraine before entering the country. He has provided no evidence for the claim that Ukraine’s leaders were waging genocide on their people, and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish.
“The West was preparing for the invasion of Russia, NATO was creating tensions at the borders. They did not want to listen to Russia, they had other plans,” Putin said.
“You are fighting for the motherland, for its future, so that no one forgets the lessons of World War II. So that there is no place in the world for executioners, punishers and Nazis.”
In recent weeks, Russia has focused its attacks on Ukraine on the eastern Donbas region, largely abandoning its assault on Kyiv and other cities. Multiple reports said Russian forces initially expected to seize Kyiv in days but were surprised by staunch Ukrainian resistance.
Ahead of Russia’s May 9 parade, President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders met virtually with Zelenskyy in a show of support for Ukraine.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Financial Times on Saturday, CIA director William Burns said that Putin appeared to be trying to redouble his efforts in Ukraine despite the setbacks, CBS News reported.
As of Sunday, Russian troops looked to be preparing “for a renewed offensive” in the Donbas “but are unlikely to be successful in this endeavor,” according to an analysis from the Institute of War.
In a press briefing on May 2, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said it “would be a great irony if Moscow used the occasion of ‘Victory Day’ to declare war” given how poorly the invasion was going.
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