Russian President Vladimir Putin attended Moscow’s Victory Day Parade marking the 77th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.
Impeccably straight columns of soldiers marched through Red Square on Monday as they do every year on Victory Day.
Tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and transports carrying huge intercontinental ballistic missiles rattled across the paving stones.
But this year’s observance of Russia’s most important patriotic holiday carries exceptional weight.
In his Victory Day speech, Putin drew parallels between the Red Army’s fighting against Nazi troops and the Russian forces’ action in Ukraine.
He said the campaign in Ukraine was a timely and necessary move to ward off potential aggression.
He added the Russian troops were fighting for the country’s security in Ukraine and observed a minute of silence to honour the troops who fell in combat.
He did not mention Ukraine by name, gave no assessment of progress in the war, and offered no indication of how long it might continue. There was no mention of the bloody battle for Mariupol, where Ukrainian defenders holed up in the ruins of the Azovstal steelworks are still defying Russia’s assault.
Putin has repeatedly likened the war – which he casts as a battle against dangerous “Nazi”-inspired nationalists in Ukraine – to the challenge the Soviet Union faced when Adolf Hitler invaded in 1941.
“NATO countries did not want to listen to us, meaning that they in fact had entirely different plans, and we saw this. Openly, preparations were under way for another punitive operation in Donbas, the invasion of our historical lands, including Crimea,” said Putin.