Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking from Moscow’s Red Square on Victory Day, did not use his speech to announce plans to intensify the war against Ukraine or order the mobilization of men to fight as Ukrainian officials had feared.
Instead, he defended his country’s military action in Ukraine as “necessary, timely and the only right solution.” He told the 11,000 assembled service personnel gathered to mark the Soviet Union’s World War II role in defeating Nazi Germany, that Russian forces entered Ukraine as “preemptive pushback” to what he claimed, without evidence, were Western plans to carry out attacks on eastern Ukraine. The United States and Western allies, while backing Ukraine and funneling in weapons and aid, have not entered the fight directly. In a rare allusion to Russian military casualties in Ukraine, Putin said “the death of each of our soldiers and officers is a grief for all of us.”
Meanwhile in Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky paid tribute to the 8 million Ukrainians who died in World War II, saying: “They fought for freedom for us and won. We are fighting for freedom for our children, and therefore we will win.”
Ukraine had warned its citizens to be especially careful on Monday, because of what it said was a heightened risk of military action. Four missiles hit areas near the port city of Odessa, with Ukrainian officials saying they were fired from Russian-occupied Crimea; Russia said Ukrainian helicopters had been destroyed. The claims could not be independently verified. In the southern city of Kherson, Ukrainian forces are reported to have launched a counteroffensive against Russians occupying the area.
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