Western “arrogance” is driving a “real war” against Russia and the West’s “superiority ideology is, by definition, repulsive, deadly, and criminal,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday during a Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square.
Putin’s speech came the same day a key mercenary leader warned Russian troops could be ill-prepared for a Ukrainian military offensive and that Russia does not deserve to win the war.
Putin did not dwell on his own bold invasion of Ukraine, which prompted the massive military response from the U.S. and its allies and has blunted the Kremlin’s push to seize large swaths of the war-battered but resilient nation. Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, the U.S. alone has provided Ukraine with about $37 billion in military aid, including a $1.2 billion package announced Tuesday. Other nations have also provided billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine.
Putin said Western leaders “still talk about their exclusivity, put people against each other and divide society, provoke bloody conflicts and coups, sow hatred, Russophobia, aggressive nationalism, destroy those family, traditional values that make humans human.”
Victory Day, celebrated Tuesday in Moscow, marks the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender on the night of May 8, 1945. A major parade was also held in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, but dozens of parades and other public commemorations were canceled across the country. Regional officials cited “security concerns” or simply “the current situation.”
∙ European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, lauding the capital city as the “beating heart” of European values.
∙ Ukrainian authorities said Russia fired another barrage at Ukraine but that air defenses destroyed 23 of the 25 missiles that were launched. The air force said in a Telegram post that eight Kalibr cruise missiles were fired from carriers in the Black Sea toward the east and 17 from strategic aircraft.
Wagner mercenary leader dismisses ‘treason’ threat
The on-again, off-again relationship between the Wagner mercenaries and Russian military brass may be off again. Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian private military group, said Tuesday that he and his troops have been told they will be deemed traitors if they withdraw from the hotly contested eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut, where they have been fighting for several months.
“A combat order came yesterday which clearly stated that if we leave our positions it will be regarded as treason against the motherland,” Prigozhin said in a section of a lengthy statement translated by the Kyiv Independent.
But Prigozhin said that if the military can’t provide ammunition, a recurring problem for his troops, they will be forced to leave their positions “and be the ones asking who is really betraying the motherland.” He said military leaders who signed orders providing insufficient firepower should take the blame.
Prigozhin accused the Kremlin’s regular troops of fleeing the fighting, mocked their unnamed leaders and warned that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will begin soon “on the ground, not on TV,” according to a Daily Beast translation.
“Victory Day is the victory of our grandfathers,” he said. “We do not deserve this victory by a millimeter.”
Ukraine getting another $1.2 billion in military aid
The Pentagon on Tuesday announced a $1.2 billion military aid package for Ukraine that includes orders to contractors for “critical near-term capabilities,” including air defense systems and 155mm artillery rounds. The assistance initiative will fund HAWK air-defense systems, air-defense munitions and drones for air defense. It will also buy artillery, rockets, satellite imagery assistance and funding for ongoing maintenance and spare parts for a variety of systems.
Last week, the Pentagon sent Ukraine $300 million in ammunition and other equipment from existing stocks. The shipments come as Ukraine prepares to launch a long-planned offensive. Ukraine also needs air-defense system to shoot down waves of Russian missiles and drones.
− Tom Vanden Brook
UN chief says peace talks ‘not possible’ now
Peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia are currently impossible as “both parties are convinced they can win,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told Spanish newspaper El País. He said the Russian invasion was a clear breach of international law. But he said the U.N. is focused on solving specific problems such as securing exports of Ukrainian grain, desperately needed to feed the developing world, through the Black Sea.
“I think that negotiation for peace is not possible at this time,” Guterres said. “I do not see Russia at the moment willing to withdraw from the territories it occupies, and I think Ukraine is hoping to retake them.”
Contributing: The Associated Press