Putin tries to justify invasion of Ukraine in Victory Day speech: ‘It was the only right decision’

The Russian leader said there was no alternative to the war, claiming the West rejected Russia’s attempts to ‘enter an honest dialogue’

Victory Day Russia
A Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launcher rolls through the Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow.YURI KOCHETKOV (EFE)
Javier G. Cuesta

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Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Monday in a speech for Victory Day, which marks the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

“It was necessary, timely and … right. The decision of a sovereign, strong, independent country,” said Putin at the 77th annual celebration in Red Square.

The Russian leader said that there was no alternative to the invasion, despite the fact that he said he would not initiate war at the beginning of 2021, when Russian troops began to be deployed to the Ukrainian border. “Russia preventively rebuffed the aggressor,” said Putin. “It was a forced, timely and only right decision.”

“In December last year, we proposed the conclusion of an agreement on security guarantees. Russia called on the West to enter an honest dialogue, in search of reasonable compromise solutions, to take each other’s interests into account. It was all in vain,” said Putin.

Russian service members march past an honor guard during a military parade on Victory Day.
Russian service members march past an honor guard during a military parade on Victory Day.SHAMIL ZHUMATOV (REUTERS)

“NATO countries did not want to listen to us, meaning that they in fact had entirely different plans, and we saw this. Openly, preparations were under way for another punitive operation in Donbas, the invasion of our historical lands, including Crimea.”

The Russian president said the conflict in Ukraine has more global implications as a clash against globalization and Western values.

“The United States, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, began talking about its exclusivity, abasing not only the whole world but also its satellites, which have to pretend they don’t see anything and obediently swallow it up,” he said. “But we are a different country. Russia has a different character. We will never abandon our love for the Motherland, our faith and traditional values, the customs of our ancestors, and our respect for all peoples and cultures.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with World War II veterans during the Victory Day military parade.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with World War II veterans during the Victory Day military parade.DPA vía Europa Press (Europa Press)

This concept of the Russkiy Mir, or “Russian world” in English, is a paradigm that covers all the territories that at different times were parts of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, including the diasporas of these countries in other parts of the world. The Kremlin has used this idea to justify any military action that allegedly seeks to protect the “Motherland,” be it the separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova or South Ossetia in Georgia.

To celebrate Victory Day, military parades were held in every corner of Russia, although they were smaller than in 2021. In areas close to Ukraine, such as Voronezh, only soldiers paraded as many of the armored vehicles had been sent to the front. In Moscow, the Russian capital, 129 combat vehicles and 10,000 soldiers participated in the parade in Red Square, compared to 191 and 12,000, respectively in 2021.

After holding a minute of silence in the middle of his speech, Putin announced new support for the families of Russian soldiers who had died or been injured in Ukraine. While there was concern the Russian leader would announce new military mobilizations on Victory Day, no such announcement was made.

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