Russian President Vladimir Putin used a military parade marking the Soviet Union's triumph over the Nazis during the Second World War to defend hison Monday, casting it as a response to Western policies. Despite widespread speculation, Putin did not declare victory in Ukraine or hint at any stronger push on the battlefield there.
"Russia called on the West for an honest dialogue, to search for reasonable, compromise solutions, to take into account each other's interests. All in vain. The NATO countries did not want to hear us, which means that in fact they had completely different plans," Putin said. "The danger grew every day. Russia gave a pre-emptive rebuff to aggression. It was a forced, timely and the only right decision. The decision of a sovereign, strong, independent country."
Putin scolded the West for failing to roll back perceived NATO expansion and meet Russian demands for "security guarantees." He repeated previous claims that he had been forced into military action due to Western nations planning operations in Ukraine's Donbas region and because of Kyiv touting its possible acquisition of nuclear weapons.
"The NATO bloc has begun active military development of the territories adjacent to us. Thus, a threat that is absolutely unacceptable to us was systematically created, moreover, directly at our borders," Putin said.
"I think he is believing what he wants to believe — a slight shine of desperation," U.K. defense secretary Ben Wallace said after Putin's remarks. "But let me put on the record categorically: NATO, Britain, eastern Europe is not planning to invade Russia and never has done."
There was less military equipment on display during the "Victory Day" parade than in previous years, which Moscow had earlier indicated would be the case. However, many of the weapons systems currently being used in Ukraine were represented, as were long-range nuclear weapons.
According to the official formation plan published in Krasnaya Zvezda military newspaper, 131 vehicles took part in the parade on Red Square. By comparison, last year's parade saw around 190 vehicles, while the 75th anniversary marking the end of what is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War was nearly double in size, with 234 vehicles on display.
Notably absent from this year's formation plan were scores of weapons involved directly in Ukrainian hostiles, like anti-aircraft complexes Pantsir S-1, heavy multiple rocket launcher "Smerch" as well as T-80 tanks.
An open-source intelligence analyst Oliver Alexander noted that the armored vehicles used by the Russian National Guard were also missing this year.
"[The vehicles] are being used extensively in the invasion of Ukraine and have suffered heavy losses," Alexander said in a tweet.
During his speech, Putin held a moment of silence for Russian casualties of his war in Ukraine, promising to offer assistance to the families of fallen Russian soldiers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered his own message on Monday, saying that Ukraine itself had been victorious against the Nazis during the Second World War, and that it would be again.
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