Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the 77th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender to Soviet forces to rally support for his war in Ukraine. May 9 is Victory Day in Russia and Putin is drawing comparisons between World War II and his current invasion during annual celebrations.
During a speech in Moscow’s Red Square, President Putin reminded the people that Soviet forces fought in Stalingrad, Russia, as well as Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine, to stop Nazi advancements. Those are two of the same Ukrainian cities Russian troops have attacked during the current assault and Putin said they are doing it for the same reason — to protect Russia and stop Nazis.
“With such feelings of genuine patriotism, the soldiers of Minin and Pozharsky rose for the fatherland,” President Putin said. “Now these days you are fighting for our people in the Donbas, for the security of our homeland, Russia.”
Victory Day is one of Russia’s most important national holidays. The celebrations include military parades and fireworks displays around the nation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy countered Putin’s speech with his own video, in which he appeared alone, walking down the barricaded streets of Kyiv. He called Putin a madman and expressed optimism that Ukrainian forces will prevail.
“We won then. We will win now too,” Zelenskyy said.
Zelenskyy also drew comparisons between Putin’s current actions and those of Adolf Hitler.
“The one who is repeating the horrific crimes of Hitler’s regime today, following Nazi philosophy, copying everything they did. He is doomed,” Zelenskyy said.
President Putin has repeatedly lied about Nazis in Ukraine. President Zelenskyy has Jewish heritage and 8 million Ukrainians died in World War II, which Russia calls the “Great Patriotic War.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is now in its 11th week. According to a senior U.S. defense official, Russia’s assault on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine is stalled and has made “virtually no progress” because Ukrainian forces have successfully fought back. The official said Ukraine’s military is having success using American-supplied Howitzer missiles against Russian forces.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.