Putin scolds West and blames NATO for Ukraine invasion during Victory Day speech

A recap of Day 75 of Russia's invasion in Ukraine: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech blaming the West, intense combat continues in the east and more than 60 feared dead after school attack.

'Russia has pre-emptively repulsed an aggression,' Putin tells military parade

Putin justifies Ukraine invasion during Second World War victory celebrations

11 months ago
Duration 2:29
Russian President Vladimir Putin used his country's day of celebration commemorating the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany to justify the invasion of Ukraine.

Latest political developments

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech from the Red Square in Moscow to mark Victory Day (the annual national holiday celebrating the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany during the Second World War).

  • Putin blamed the West for the campaign in Russia, and made no dramatic declarations or announcements, despite predictions from many observers who thought Putin may capitalize on the patriotism of Victory Day to escalate tensions.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the day with his own speech, saying: "Very soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine."

  • The U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan have all pledged to ban or phase out imports of Russian oil.

Updates from the ground on Day 75 of the war

  • Russian troops are still trying to capture a steel mill where Ukrainian fighters are holed up and refuse to surrender. It's the last remaining stronghold in the strategic port city of Mariupol.

  • Intense combat continues in Eastern Ukraine. Russia refocused its invasion on the east after withdrawing from the north, where troops were slowed by Ukrainian resistance.

  • More than 60 are feared dead after a Russian bomb hit a school being used as a shelter in Bilohorivka.

  • Russian shelling has killed two boys, ages 11 and 14, in Pryvillia.

  • A 12-year-old boy in Dnipropetrovsk province was killed by a cluster munition that he found after a Russian attack.

No hints from Putin about next steps

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the Victory Day military parade marking the 77th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Moscow on Monday. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/The Associated Press)

In a speech delivered from Russia's famous Red Square, Russian President Vladimir Putin marked Victory Day and blamed Western policies for Moscow's military action in Ukraine, drawing parallels between the Red Army's fight against Nazi Germany and the Russian forces' action in Ukraine.

While Western analysts in recent weeks had widely expected Putin to use the holiday to trumpet some kind of victory in Ukraine or announce an escalation, he did neither. Instead, he sought to justify the war again as a necessary response to what he portrayed as a hostile Ukraine.

"The danger was rising," he said, and went on to say that, "Russia has pre-emptively repulsed an aggression," in what he described as a "forced, timely and the only correct decision by a sovereign, powerful and independent country."

He steered clear of battlefield specifics, failing to mention the potentially pivotal battle for the vital southern port of Mariupol.

Putin has repeatedly alleged that Ukraine was planning to attack Russia, which Kyiv has flatly denied. The United Nations has overwhelmingly condemned the invasion and has repeatedly called for Russian troops to withdraw.

Putin also scolded the West for failing to heed Russian demands for security guarantees and a rollback to NATO's expansion, arguing that it left Moscow no other choice but to launch an action in Ukraine.

Putin delivers his speech during Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on Monday. Putin said that what he calls his special military operation in Ukraine was necessary in order to pre-emptively repulse threats, which Kyiv flatly denies. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/The Associated Press)

Russia 'starting to lose' the war

But in the end, he gave no signal as to where the war is headed or how he might intend to salvage it. Specifically, he left unanswered the question of whether or how Russia will marshal more forces for a continuing war.

"Without concrete steps to build a new force, Russia can't fight a long war, and the clock starts ticking on the failure of their army in Ukraine," tweeted Phillips P. O'Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Nigel Gould Davies, a former British ambassador to Belarus, said: "Russia has not won this war. It's starting to lose it."

He said that unless Russia has a major breakthrough, "the balance of advantages will shift steadily in favour of Ukraine, especially as Ukraine gets access to growing volumes of increasingly sophisticated Western military equipment."

WATCH | Analyst discusses Russia's shortage of soldiers:

Putin's Victory Day speech devoid of key details, says analyst

11 months ago
Duration 7:07
Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech at the Victory Day parade lacked clues about how he'll deal with a shortage of soldiers for the war in Ukraine, said Philip Breedlove, a retired U.S. general and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.

Russians push back, protest war

Despite Russia's efforts to crack down on dissent, antiwar sentiment has seeped through.

A few scattered protesters were detained around the country on Victory Day, and editors at one pro-Kremlin media outlet revolted by briefly publishing a few-dozen stories criticizing Putin and the invasion.

In Poland, antiwar protesters threw red paint at Russia's ambassador to Poland, Sergey Andreev, as he arrived at a cemetery in Warsaw to pay respects to Red Army soldiers who died during the Second World War.

Protesters opposed to the war threw red paint at the Russian ambassador to Poland, Sergey Andreev, on Monday, at a cemetery in Warsaw, where he was paying respects to Red Army soldiers who died during the Second World War. (Maciek Luczniewski/The Associated Press)

Zelensky says 'we will win'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared in his own Victory Day address that his country would eventually defeat the Russians.

In a video released to mark the holiday, he said: "Very soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine."

"We have never fought against anyone. We always fight for ourselves.... We are fighting for freedom, for our children, and therefore we will win," Zelensky said.

In a clear reference to Putin, Zelensky added: "The one who is repeating the horrific crimes of Hitler's regime today, following Nazi philosophy, copying everything they did — he is doomed."

Warning Russia may increase indiscriminate bombing

On Monday, Britain's Defence Ministry said in its daily assessment that Russian forces were running short of precision-guided munitions and could increasingly subject Ukrainian towns and cities to "intense and indiscriminate bombardments with little or no regard for civilian casualties."

In fact, more than 60 people were feared dead after a Russian bomb flattened a Ukrainian school being used as a shelter in Bilohorivka, an eastern village, Ukrainian officials said.

In Mariupol, a crucial southern port city of Ukraine, Russian forces continue to pummel a seaside steel mill where an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are making their last stand.

The mill is the only part of the city not overtaken by the invaders. Its defeat would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014. It would also give the Kremlin a badly needed success.

WATCH | What the fall of Mariupol could mean: 

The symbolism behind the fight for Mariupol

11 months ago
Duration 6:32
The last battalion of fighters trying to hold the steel plant in Mariupol represents the heroism of the Ukrainians, says the Foreign Policy Research Institute's Maia Otarashvili, but it will likely fall. Because they are members of the far-right Azov Battalion, she says, Russian President Vladimir Putin will use them to further his claim that Moscow had to rid Ukraine of extremist elements.

Odesa, too, has increasingly come under bombardment in recent days. The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven missiles from the air at the city on Monday night, hitting a shopping centre and a warehouse.

One person was killed and five were wounded, the military said.

The war in the country long known as the "breadbasket of Europe" has disrupted global food supplies.

"I saw silos full of grain, wheat and corn ready for export," Charles Michel, president of the European Council, lamented in a tweet after a visit to Odesa. "This badly needed food is stranded because of the Russian war and blockade of Black sea ports. Causing dramatic consequences for vulnerable countries."

Emergency personnel work near a building damaged after a military strike, in Odesa, Ukraine, in this handout image released Monday. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout/Reuters)

In his nightly video address, Zelensky said that Europe, as it did in the Second World War, once again has to think about the price to be paid for peace on the continent.

He added that Europe has to think about the price to be paid by Russia "for bringing the evil of total war to Europe again."

New signs of support for Ukraine

As Victory Day turned attention toward Putin, Western leaders and celebrities showed new signs of support for Ukraine.

The Group of Seven industrial democracies — U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan — pledged to ban or phase out imports of Russian oil. 

The United States announced other new sanctions, cutting off Western advertising from Russia's three biggest TV stations, banning U.S. accounting and consulting firms from providing services, and cutting off Russia's industrial sector from wood products, industrial engines, boilers and bulldozers.

On Sunday, U.S. first lady Jill Biden met with her Ukrainian counterpart, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a surprise visit to Kyiv and pledged support. 

Irish rock group U2's frontman Bono and his bandmate The Edge visited Kyiv to pay tribute as well. They played a 40-minute concert in a metro station in Kyiv, singing the 1960s song Stand by Me.

U2 frontman Bono, left; Taras Topolia, frontman for the Ukrainian band Antytila and now a serviceman in the Ukrainian Army, centre; and guitarist David Howell Evans aka 'The Edge,' right, perform at a Kyiv subway station on Sunday. (Sergei Supinksky/AFP/Getty Images)

With files from Reuters