Putin’s eerie ‘plagued Europe’ speech one year before Ukraine invasion

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Unearthed footage shows how Vladimir Putin told both his people and the world that Russia would defend its national interests “firmly”, warning that ‘Nazi ideologies’ were again on the rise ahead of his invasion of Ukraine.

The President’s Victory Day speech has long been used to send a message to global leaders without the formality of state and foreign visits while instilling patriotism into the population.

Victory Day is celebrated in Russia as a tribute to the fallen heroes of World War 2 — what Russia knows as the Great Patriotic War — and marks the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

The speech is often said to be indicative of Russia’s relationship with and feelings about the West. In 2005, when President George W. Bush was in attendance, Putin spoke positively of the West, paying tribute to the country’s Western allies, mentioning the US, UK, France, and “other countries that fought in the anti-Nazi coalition.”

That now seems a world away. More recent speeches have painted the complete opposite view of the West — even before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

This week, speaking from Red Square in Moscow as part of the celebrations, Putin alluded to the idea of the West as the enemy, stating that the “real war” was being waged against Russia.

Almost a year before he launched his “special military operation” in Ukraine, Putin appeared to send a similar message, despite much of the world disregarding the threat Russia posed.

His speech, again at Red Square, sent a reminder of the country’s goals and war abilities. Putin has long sought to spread the idea to Russians that the West poses a threat, evoking the idea of a re-emergence of Nazism to rally citizens and military forces.

In May 2021, tensions between NATO and Russia came to a head after the Kremlin was accused of cyber hacking and the military had built up at Ukraine’s borders.

At the time, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of “reckless and aggressive actions” after an estimated 100,000 troops, as well as fighter jets and tanks, had been planted on its Eastern border.

During the speech, Putin said Russia will “firmly defend our national interests to ensure the safety of our people”, describing the armed forces as “valiant” and “the heirs of the soldiers of victory”.

Putin commended the Soviet people for “freeing” Europe from the “plague” of Nazism, adding: “At the most difficult moments in the war, during decisive battles that determined the result of the struggle against fascism, our people were united united in the toilsome, heroic, and sacrificial path to victory.”

But, echoing sentiments that have frequently been expressed since, he added: “Unfortunately, many of the ideologies of the Nazis, those who were obsessed with the delusional theory of their exclusiveness, are again trying to be put into service.”

Similarly, this year he compared combating Ukraine’s “criminal regime” with the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

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The parade also sent a warning of the weaponry Russia had in its arsenal.

The likes of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers were all on display while fighter jets and nuclear bombers flew overhead.

But this year the event was a scaled-back affair with analysts saying there were just 50 vehicles on display and no traditional flyover.

In fact, the parade was led through Red Square by a single tank, said to give a “strong indication” of the state of Putin’s military equipment.

Only 8,000 troops marched this year, the lowest number seen in the Red Square since 2008. In comparison, during the pandemic in 2020, some 13,000 soldiers took part, and last year the troops amounted to some 11,000.

While the parade was smaller than in previous years, the Russian President was defiant, saying: “There is no cause stronger in the world than our love for our armed forces. There’s nothing in the world stronger than our love for the motherland.”

As Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz warned: “Putin is parading his soldiers, tanks, and missiles today.

“We must not be intimidated by such power plays. Let’s remain steadfast in our support for Ukraine — for as long as it takes.”

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