Putin Condemns Western Support for Ukraine as Russia’s Battlefield Losses Mount

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech during the Victory Day military parade marking the 78th anniversary of the end of World War II in Red square in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 9, 2022. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) (AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech during the Victory Day military parade marking the 78th anniversary of the end of World War II in Red square in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 9, 2022. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) (AP)


  • Victory Day celebrations are more muted this year after Kremlin drone attack, strikes on Russian soil expose vulnerabilities

Russian President Vladimir Putin fired a rhetorical broadside at Washington and the West on Tuesday, condemning allied military support for Ukraine as Moscow faces mounting battlefield losses more than a year after invading its smaller neighbor.

Speaking to a crowd on Moscow’s Red Square at the country’s annual Victory Day parade commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, Mr. Putin declared, “An actual war has once again been unleashed against our motherland," saying the West sought Russia’s “disintegration and destruction."

The Kremlin increasingly has sought to recast the war in Ukraine as a contest between Russia and the West, which has supplied Kyiv with increasingly powerful weapons and ammunition as well as billions of dollars in financial support as it fights to expel Moscow from remaining occupied territories.

Tuesday’s celebrations, which included a military parade, were more muted than last year’s and came days after a drone attack on the Kremlin and a series of other strikes on infrastructure in Russia that have exposed the country’s vulnerability and rattled many Russians.

At least 20 cities decided to cancel parades and other public celebrations. Others scaled them back.

The Kremlin has increasingly found itself on the back foot in recent months, dogged by what Western defense officials say are tens of thousands of military casualties coupled with Moscow’s failure to cow Ukraine into submission or thwart Western nations’ support for Kyiv.

The quagmire facing Russia’s army is highlighted in the battle for Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine that has become a symbol of Kyiv’s resistance to Russia’s attacks. The city has also been at the heart of public discord between the Russian military and Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Mr. Putin and the leader of the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group.

Over the past week, Mr. Prigozhin has threatened to withdraw his forces unless the Russian Defense Ministry supplied the arms and ammunition his group needs to continue its campaign in Bakhmut. Over the weekend, he agreed to fight on, but on Tuesday he said his units hadn’t yet received the ammunition promised by Moscow. He refrained from providing further details.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin praised Russia’s armed forces, telling the crowd on Red Square that he was proud of soldiers fighting on the front lines and those working to provide supplies and rescue the wounded.

“There is no more important thing now than your combat work," he said. “The security of the country rests on you today, the future of our statehood and our people depends on you."

Mr. Putin has long tried to harness the wave of patriotism connected to the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is commonly known in Russia, to bolster his position and rally support. The conflict, in which some 27 million Soviet citizens perished, touched the lives of virtually every Russian family.

“During the Great Patriotic War, our heroic ancestors proved that there is nothing stronger, more powerful and more reliable than our unity," he said. “There is nothing in the world stronger than our love for the motherland."

An April survey from the Moscow-based Levada polling center, which describes itself as independent, found that 75% Russians support the actions of the country’s armed forces in Ukraine.

Foreign leaders weren’t formally invited to attend this year’s parade, the Kremlin said earlier. But the heads of seven former Soviet republics showed up in Moscow on Monday for what were described as working visits.

The leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Armenia joined Mr. Putin on the tribune alongside Lenin’s Mausoleum on Red Square, from where they watched the procession.

Some analysts suggested that the participation of these leaders provided some assurance to Russian authorities that Ukraine likely wouldn’t target Red Square during the parade after last week’s drone attacks, which damaged the roof of a building in the Kremlin complex. Their presence was also significant as Mr. Putin seeks to maintain a foothold in Central Asia and the South Caucasus, traditionally Russia’s sphere of influence.

Former Soviet republics in the region have refused to support Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, instead remaining neutral on the conflict. Many are seeking greater ties with China and have absorbed a flood of Russian men who fled their country to escape Mr. Putin’s military mobilization in September, but their geographic isolation and dependence on Russia for everything from security assistance to export routes and labor markets have prevented them from fully turning their backs on Moscow.

Armenia, meanwhile, needs Mr. Putin’s protection and backing in helping to mediate decades-old tensions with neighboring Azerbaijan.

On Monday, Mr. Putin and Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov affirmed their readiness to enhance military and military-technical cooperation between their countries, including strengthening the armed forces of Kyrgyzstan and developing Russian military facilities located on its territory.

On Tuesday, Mr. Putin praised the role played by former Soviet republics in helping to defeat Nazi Germany and stressed the need for continued unity.

“It’s very important that the leaders of the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States have gathered here today in Moscow," he said. “I see in this a grateful attitude to the feat of our ancestors: they fought together and won together."

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