World News, 09 May 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin stood before his country addressing the nation as Russia celebrated its 77th “Victory Day,” a commemoration of the USSR’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
Putin has long used his 9 May speeches to draw parallels between the second world war and the present day, the Russian President has previously used the anniversary to project Moscow’s moral superiority over Nazism – and anyone he opts to label a “Nazi”.
Leading up to this years speech, observers had many speculations and fears over the contents of Putins address with experts being sure in their predictions that Putin would express triumph regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
To everyones suprise, the president’s address to 11,000 servicemen in Red Square this year was nothing new, simply a compilation of previous grievances that were recycled and intensified for this year, when his army is fighting a new war. In his speech, Putin did not mention the word “Ukraine” once.
Experts have said Putin avoided any mention of Ukraine because it associates with trouble, defeat, thwarted hopes and expectations.
Belarusian analyst Igar Tyshkevich who is based in Kyiv noted that Putin’s speech appeared to show that Moscow has not decided on a plan on how to end the war in Ukraine.
“Judging by how Putin placed his assessments, Russia so far has no decision about how to exit the war…They didn’t achieve their goals, but don’t know what to do instead” said Tyshkevich.
Many analysts believe Russia’s initial goal was to achieve a quick victory after the initial invasion, but that this strategy failed for a number of reasons, including: poor supplies of food, fuel and ammunition for servicemen and inaccurate expectations that Ukrainians would welcome Russian invaders as “liberators”, among others.
When Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Kremlin said the goal of the “special military operation” was to “denazify” and “demilitarise” its neighbour.
But in the weeks since then, Russian forces themselves have suffered a series of setbacks on the battlefield and been forced to withdraw forces from several fronts. The Ukrainian defence ministry has estimated that some 25,000 Russian servicemen have been killed. Russia’s most recent estimate in late March was more than 1,300 Russian forces had been killed.
Putin also focused on the continuing offensive in the eastern Donbas region, mentioning it five times in his speech.
“These days, you are fighting for our people in Donbas,” he said, a reference to the Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the industrial region – who, according to the Kremlin, needed its “protection”.
Putin spoke about the Donbas “militias” who fight on Moscow’s side, and called Ukraine’s war against the separatists “a punitive operation”.
He urged the audience to bow their heads for “the elderly, women and children of Donbas, peaceful civilians who died of merciless shelling, barbaric strikes of neo-Nazis”.
The images from that war, seen across the world, have made Putin’s politicisation of the Soviet wartime sacrifice even less convincing.
Putin used the Victory Day podium to reel off a list of grievances against the west that seemed to describe his own regime more aptly. He made reference to “cancel culture”, complaining that so-called “traditional values” had been cancelled, despite the fact his regime has arrested people for Facebook posts and shut down numerous newspapers for calling the war in Ukraine a war, and not a “special military operation”, the officially approved euphemism.