Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday marked his country’s biggest patriotic holiday without a major new breakthrough on the battlefield in Ukraine, marking his 11th week with the Kremlin’s military. Little or no progress was made as to the battlefield during the Aggressive.
The Russian leader oversaw a Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square, watching as soldiers marched in formation and military hardware rolled in celebration of the Soviet Union’s role in the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany.
While Western analysts have widely expected in recent weeks that Putin would use the holiday to trumpet some kind of victory in Ukraine or announce an escalation, he did not. Instead, he sought to justify the war again as a necessary response, which he portrayed as a hostile Ukraine.
“The danger was increasing day by day,” Putin said. “Russia has given a retrospective response to the aggression. It was a forced, timely and only correct decision.”
He explained the specifics of the battlefield, failed to mention a potentially important battle for the important southern port of Mariupol, and did not even utter the word “Ukraine”.
On land, meanwhile, intense fighting ensued in Ukraine’s east, the important Black Sea port of Odessa in the south came under repeated missile attacks, and Russian forces sought Ukrainian defenders to make their last stand at a steel plant in Mariupol. Of.
Putin has long been engaged in NATO crawling eastwards in former Soviet republics. Ukraine and its Western allies have denied any threat to the country.
As he has done with everyone else, Putin falsely portrayed the fight as the fight against Nazism, leading many Russians to consider the war his finest hour: the victory over Hitler. The Soviet Union lost 27 million people in what Russia refers to as the Great Patriotic War.
After unexpectedly fierce resistance forced the Kremlin to abandon its attempt to attack Kyiv a month earlier, Moscow’s forces have focused on capturing the Donbass, Ukraine’s eastern industrial region.
But the fighting there has been sloganeered village-by-village, and many analysts suggested that Putin could use his holiday speech to present the Russian people with victory amid discontent over the country’s heavy casualties and punitive effects. Huh. of western sanctions
Others suggested that he might declare war, and not just a “special military operation”, and a nationwide mobilization with a call-up of reserves, to replenish the ranks depleted for an extended conflict. can order.
In the end, he gave no indication of where the war was going or how he wanted to salvage it. In particular, he left unanswered the question of whether Russia would marshal more forces for continued warfare.
“Without concrete steps to build a new 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, Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of Scotland in St Andrews.
Former British ambassador to Belarus Nigel Gould Davies said: “Russia has not won this war. It is starting to lose it.”
He added that unless Russia has a major breakthrough, “the balance of benefits will shift sharply in Ukraine’s favor, especially as Ukraine has access to an increasing amount of increasingly sophisticated Western military equipment.”
Despite Russia’s crackdown on dissent, anti-war sentiment has prevailed. Dozens of protesters were detained across the country on Victory Day, and editors of pro-Kremlin media outlets revolted by briefly publishing a few dozen stories criticizing Putin and the invasion.
In Warsaw, anti-war protesters see Russia’s ambassador to Poland painted red as he arrives at a cemetery to pay respects to Red Army soldiers killed during World War II.
As Putin laid a wreath in Moscow, air raid sirens resounded again in the Ukrainian capital. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared in his own Victory Day address that his country would eventually defeat the Russians.
“Very soon Ukraine will have two Victory Days,” he said in a video. He added: “We are fighting for freedom for our children, and so we will win.”
According to a senior US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment, Russia’s Ukraine has about 97 battalion tactical groups, largely to the east and south, a slight increase over the past week. Is. According to the Pentagon, there are about 1,000 soldiers in each unit.
Overall, Russian efforts in the Donbass have not achieved any significant progress in recent days and continue to face stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces, the official said.
The Ukrainian military warned of a high possibility of missile attacks around the holiday, and some cities imposed curfews or warned people not to gather in public places.
More than 60 people are feared dead over the weekend after Russian bombings on a Ukrainian school being used as a shelter in Ukraine’s eastern village of Bilohorivka.
Russia is probably closest to victory in Mariupol. The US official said about 2,000 Russian forces were around Mariupol, and the city was being surrounded by air raids. More than 2,000 Ukrainian defenders are believed to have been at the steel plant, the city’s last stronghold of resistance.
The fall of Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of an important port, allow Russia to complete a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, and free up troops to fight elsewhere in the Donbass. It would also give the Kremlin a badly needed breakthrough.
Odessa has also been subjected to rapid bombings in recent days. Ukrainian officials said on Monday that the missiles were fired repeatedly. There were no immediate reports of casualties, and officials did not say what had been killed.
The war in a country long known as the “bread basket of Europe” has disrupted the global food supply.
“I saw silos full of grain, wheat and corn ready for export,” European Council President Charles Michel said in a tweet after his visit to Odessa. “This badly needed food has been trapped because of the Russian war and the blockade of Black Sea ports. Creating dramatic consequences for vulnerable countries.”
Gambrel reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yesika Fish in Bakhmut, David Keaton in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita C in Washington. Baldor and Associated Press employees around the world contributed to this report.
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