Putin Gives Defiant Victory Day Speech but Stops Short of Escalation

From a New York Times story by Anton Trolanovski and Dan Bilelfsky headlined “Putin Gives Defiant Speech, but Stops Short of Escalation”:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday hailed his country’s army for “fighting for the Motherland,” delivering a defiant speech at the annual Victory Day commemorations in Moscow that falsely depicted his invasion of Ukraine as an extension of the struggle against Nazism in Europe.

But despite the rhetorical bombast and military pageantry of the day, which celebrates the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany, Mr. Putin’s speech was conspicuous for what it left out: There was no claim of victory; no call for a new mobilization of Russians for a wider conflict; no threat of a nuclear strike; and no stark pronouncement about Russia being locked in an existential war with the West.

The address was carefully calibrated and appeared aimed at a domestic audience, as Mr. Putin sought to channel Russian pride in defeating Nazi Germany into support for his invasion of Ukraine. But while some Western officials had predicted Mr. Putin would seize on the holiday to double down on the war, instead his words appeared to underline his cautiousness about demanding too much from regular Russians in a country buffeted by internal divisions.

He insisted again that Russia had been forced into the war and made a rare acknowledgment of the toll of the fighting, promising that his government would do “everything to care for” the families of dead soldiers.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine rebutted Mr. Putin’s reading of history, saying in a speech released on Monday that the Russian leader’s war was “repeating the horrific crimes of Hitler’s regime today.” He said only “a madman” would follow the path of the fascists who started World War II.

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