(Kyiv) “The same” as the Nazis: Ukraine’s president promised defeat to Russia on Monday, the anniversary of the end of World War II and the eve of celebrations with great fanfare and tight security in Moscow.
Western countries mark the anniversary of the German surrender on May 8, but Moscow has always kept the date of the 9th due to a difference in time zones.
President Vladimir Putin has made defeating the Nazis an essential part of Russian identity and nationalism, downplaying the role of other Allies. And he also consistently placed his invasion of Ukraine within that legacy, saying his neighbor needed to be “denazified.”
But on Monday, it was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who promised the Putin regime the same fate as that of Adolf Hitler.
“All the old evil that modern Russia brings back will be defeated the same way Nazism was defeated,” Zelensky insisted in an address posted on his social media shortly after another Russian night attack, in which more Thirty explosive drones were shot down over Kyiv and two civilians killed in the Odessa and Zaporijjia regions (south).
He announced in the aftermath that Ukraine will now mark the end of the Second World War in the Western way on May 8 and will celebrate Europe Day on May 9, like the EU countries that Kyiv aspires to join in the faster.
The day after the announcement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will travel to Kyiv to reaffirm “the EU’s unwavering support for Ukraine”, her spokesperson announced.
Russia, for its part, is preparing its commemorations with the traditional military parade on Tuesday in the shadow of the Kremlin and a speech by Mr. Putin in front of thousands of soldiers standing at attention in Red Square.
But after 15 months of battlefield setbacks, celebrations in Russia will not have the luster of previous years.
All over the country, parades and demonstrations have been canceled, the authorities advancing a “terrorist” risk too high.
Especially since the attacks on Russian territory, attributed to Kyiv by Moscow, have multiplied in recent weeks and a vast Ukrainian counter-offensive seems more and more imminent or is perhaps already underway.
There have also been strikes against Russian energy installations, sabotage of railways and multiple assassination attempts or assassinations of personalities, such as the one which injured nationalist writer Zakhar Prilepin on Saturday.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov therefore justified the cancellation of part of the May 9 celebrations: “When you have to do with a state sponsor of terrorism, in fact, it is better to take measures preventive”.
Russia also launched dozens of explosive drones against its neighbor overnight from Sunday to Monday. Overall, the damage was limited, with some 35 aircraft that targeted Kyiv having been shot down, according to the city’s military administration.
However, five people were injured and buildings damaged by debris.
An apartment was devastated in particular, AFP journalists noted.
“We were very scared because we heard the drones for the first time. They were flying very low. It was really, really scary,” commented local resident Vladyslav.
The Odessa region was also targeted, with local authorities reporting the destruction by a missile of a food warehouse and its caretaker killed.
On the Russian side, the administration of the annexed Crimean peninsula claimed to have repelled a night attack by Ukrainian drones against Sevastopol, the home port of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea.
Overall, the Russian military campaign has been bogged down for months as the military proved unable to make any territorial gains in its winter offensive.
Bakhmout, a “fortress” city in the east plagued by fighting for nearly a year, is the latest symbol of fierce Ukrainian resistance.
This battle also exposed the conflicts within the Russian camp, with the boss of the paramilitary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin insulting in a recent video the high military hierarchy, even threatening to throw in the towel before retracting after obtaining the promise more ammunition.
However, the Ukrainian counter-offensive, even if it is boosted by Western arms supplies, promises to be long and bloody, the Russians having spent the winter consolidating their positions and digging trenches, in the South as in the ‘East.