GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
- President Vladimir Putin has delivered his Victory Day speech in Moscow.
- He sought to portray the war in Ukraine as part of a plot to destroy Russia.
- Critics said the speech was riddled with distortions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin used his Victory Day speech Tuesday to rant against the West, claiming it had created a “cult of Nazism.”
At the parade in Russia’s capital marking the anniversary of the end of World War II, Putin said the Russian invasion of Ukraine was an extension of the Soviet Union’s battle against fascism.
His comments came just hours after Russia sent a barrage of missiles towards Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv.
“We see that in a number of countries, they are destroying the memorials to the Soviet fighters, to the great generals, they are creating a real cult of Nazism, and they are trying to delete the memory of real heroes,” Putin told crowds gathered in Red Square.
He said that the “mocking of the memory of past generations is a real crime.”
Putin has sought to portray the war in Ukraine as a battle against Western powers who he claims are determined to destroy Russia. He has also baselessly claimed the Ukrainian government is led by Nazis.
“Today, civilization is again at a decisive turning point. A real war has been unleashed against our Motherland,” he said during a parade in Moscow on Tuesday.
“The West forgot who defeated the Nazis,” he said.
The Kremlin initially sought to portray the invasion as a limited “special military operation” aimed at eliminating Ukraine’s government, but amid a series of battlefield setbacks and steep casualty rates, Kremlin propagandists have ramped up their rhetoric.
In recent months, they have invoked comparisons to Russia’s battle against the invasion by Nazi Germany in 1941. During the war, Russia was allied against fascist powers with Western powers including the UK and US.
In his speech Tuesday, Putin claimed that “Western globalist elites” were spreading hatred of Russia, while the Ukrainian people had become “hostages to a state coup.”
Analysts said that Putin’s claims were a distortion of history, and were unlikely to be accepted by most Russians.
“Today Russia celebrates ‘Victory Day’, looking back to the immense sacrifice the Soviet peoples made to defeat the Nazis. All the while Putin’s forces wreak Nazi-like destruction on Bakhmut and other Ukrainian towns,” tweeted John O’Brennan, a professor of European politics at Maynooth University in Ireland, referring to Russian attacks that’ve reduced some Ukrainian cities to rubble.
—John O’Brennan (@JohnOBrennan2) May 9, 2023
“His story is that Russia is continuing the good work of the Second World War and he and his propagandists have been saying for some time now that effectively the Second World War was Russia against the rest, was against the West,” Dominic Waghorn, Sky News’ international editor, said in his analysis of the speech.
“They’ve even said that the West created Nazis,” he added, calling it a “grotesque perversion of and distortion of history”.
Mark Galleotti, an expert on the Russian military, described Putin’s speech on Times Radio as “short and sour,” and as “really the last card he can play with the Russian people” by portraying the Ukraine war as a threat on the scale of that Russia faced in World War II.
In remarks to Politico in February, a Russian pollster said that the Kremlin’s narratives about the West predated the invasion.
“Long before February last year, people were already telling us: We are being dragged into a war by the West which we don’t want but there is no retreating from,” Denis Volkov, director of the independent pollster Levada Center, told the outlet.