Putin: Putin marks Victory Day with little to show for 11-week war – Times of India


ZAPORIZHZHIA (Ukraine): With no major new battlefield success to boast of, Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his country’s biggest patriotic holiday without even uttering the word “Ukraine” as the armed forces of the Kremlin had made little to no progress for their final offensive.
The Russian leader oversaw a Victory Day parade on Monday in Moscow’s Red Square as he watched troops march in formation and roll past military equipment in celebration of the Soviet Union’s role in Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945.
Many Western analysts had expected Putin to use the holiday to herald some sort of victory in Ukraine or herald an escalation, but he didn’t. Instead, he tried to justify the war again as a necessary response to what he portrayed as a hostile Ukraine.
“The danger increased by the day,” Putin said. “Russia has responded preemptively to aggression. It was forced, timely and the only right decision.”
As the conflict entered its 11th week, he steered clear of battlefield details, not mentioning the potentially crucial battle for the vital southern port of Mariupol.
Meanwhile, fierce fighting raged on the ground in eastern Ukraine, the vital Black Sea port of Odessa in the south was repeatedly attacked by missiles and Russian forces attempted to finish off Ukrainian defenders who were taking their final position at a steel plant in Mariupol.
Putin has long been frustrated with NATO’s shortcut east in former Soviet republics. Ukraine and its Western allies have denied that the country posed a threat.
As he has all along, Putin erroneously portrayed the fighting as a struggle against Nazism, associating the war with what many Russians consider their most beautiful moment: the triumph over Hitler. The Soviet Union lost 27 million people in what Russia calls the Great Patriotic War.
After unexpected fierce resistance forced the Kremlin to give up its attempt to storm Kiev a month ago, Moscow’s forces have concentrated on capturing the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial region.
But fighting there has gone back and forth, village after village, and analysts had suggested Putin could use his holiday speech to bring victory to the Russian people amid discontent over the country’s heavy losses and the punitive consequences of Western rule. sanctions.
Others suggested that he declare the struggle a war, not just a “special military operation,” and order a nationwide mobilization, with a call-up from reserves, to replenish the depleted ranks for a protracted conflict.
In the end, he gave no signal as to where the war was headed or how he might save it. In particular, he left unanswered the question of whether and how Russia will pool more troops for an ongoing war.
“Without concrete steps to build a new fighting force, Russia cannot fight a long war, and the clock is ticking on the failure of their military in Ukraine,” tweeted Phillips P. O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the United Nations. University of St Andrews in Scotland.
Nigel Gould Davies, 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 benefits will steadily shift in favor of Ukraine, especially as Ukraine gains access to increasingly large amounts of increasingly sophisticated Western military equipment.”
Despite Russia’s crackdown on dissent, anti-war sentiment has seeped through. Dozens of protesters were detained across the country on Victory Day, and editors of a pro-Kremlin media outlet rioted by briefly publishing several dozen stories criticizing Putin and the invasion.
In Warsaw, anti-war protesters splattered the Russian ambassador to Poland with what appeared to be red paint when he arrived at a cemetery to pay tribute to Red Army soldiers who had died during World War II.
As Putin laid a wreath in Moscow, air strikes echoed again in the Ukrainian capital. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared in his own Victory Day speech that his country would eventually defeat the Russians.
“Very soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine,” he said in a video. He added: “We are fighting for freedom, for our children, and that is why we will win.”
An adviser to Zelenskyy interpreted Putin’s speech as indicating that Russia has no interest in escalating the war through the use of nuclear weapons or direct involvement with NATO.
Speaking in an online interview late Monday, Oleksiy Arestovych pointed to Putin’s statement that Russia would honor the memory of those who fought in World War II by “doing everything so that the horror of a global war does not happen again.”
Instead, he predicted that Russia would make “a slow effort” to take control of the Donbas, including Mariupol, and a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which the Kremlin seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Arestovych said Russia would drag on the war while Ukraine’s economy would bleed, aiming to get Ukraine to give up that area.
Russia has about 97 tactical battalion groups in Ukraine, mostly in the east and south, a slight increase from last week, according to a senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment. Each unit has about 1,000 troops, according to the Pentagon.
The official said that the Russian effort in the Donbas has generally failed to make significant progress in recent days and continues to face stiff opposition from Ukrainian forces.
Russia may be closest to a victory in Mariupol. The US official said there were about 2,000 Russian troops around Mariupol and the city was shelled by airstrikes. As many as 2,000 Ukrainian defenders are said to hold out in the steel factory, the city’s last resistance stronghold.
The fall of Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free up troops to fight elsewhere in the Donbas and give the Kremlin a much-needed success.
Odessa has also been bombed more and more in recent days. The Ukrainian army said Russian troops fired seven rockets from the air at Odessa on Monday evening, hitting a shopping center and warehouse. One person was killed and five were injured, the army said.
The war in the country long known as the “breadbasket of Europe” has disrupted the global food supply.
“I saw silos full of grain, wheat and maize ready for export,” said Charles Michel, president of the European Council, in a tweet after a visit to Odessa. Much-needed food has been stranded by the war and the blockade of ports on the Black Sea, he said, with “dramatic consequences for vulnerable countries”.

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