Russian President Vladimir Putin did not, as some analysts had expected, use his Victory Day speech in Moscow on Monday to declare a new phase in his invasion of Ukraine. Instead, speaking before 11,000 service members to mark the victory over Nazi Germany, Putin justified the invasion as "necessary, timely, and the only right solution," and a "preemptive rebuff to aggression" from NATO.
The West, Putin claimed without evidence, was preparing for the "invasion of our land, including Crimea," the peninsula Russia invaded and annexed from Ukraine in 2014. "You are fighting for the motherland, for its future, so that lessons of World War II are not forgotten," he told told the assembled Russian troops and the pro-Moscow Ukrainians fighting in eastern Ukraine. "There is no place in history for the punitive divisions of Nazis"
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called Putin's comparison of "his barbaric war of aggression to that battle against the Nazis" a "falsification of history" that Germany is obligated to repudiate "in no uncertain terms." British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace called Putin's various allegations about NATO "fairytale claims." Putin "is believing what he wants to believe — a slight shine of desperation," Wallace said. "But let me put on the record categorically: Nato, Britain, eastern Europe is not planning to invade Russia and never has done."
Russia's May 9 parade this year was smaller than 2021's, with fewer pieces of military equipment and no aerial flyover. The plan to have fighter jets fly over Red Square in a Z formation was canceled due to purported bad weather, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The entire May 9 celebration was "very low key," British defense analyst Nicholas Drummond told CNN. "Putin may have derived some satisfaction from all the fevered Western speculation surrounding this year's Victory Day speech," BBC diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams speculated. But "is Putin happy to keep everyone guessing, or does the lack of detail reflect Russia's setbacks on the battlefield?"
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy recorded his Victory Day speech, delivered while walking alone past fortifications in Kyiv, the capital.
The Ukrainians battling the Nazis in World War II "fought for freedom for us and won," and "we are fighting for freedom for our children," Zelenksy said, predicting "two Victory Days in Ukraine" soon. "We won then. We will win now, too."