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Putin says nuclear forces ‘always’ on alert in Victory Day speech

Putin says nuclear forces 'always' on alert in Victory Day speech
Source: Video Screenshot

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday warned his nuclear forces were “always” on alert and added that Moscow would not tolerate any Western threats, in an address at the annual Victory Day parade.

In a defiant speech on Red Square before thousands of soldiers dressed in ceremonial attire, Putin heaped praise on his army fighting in Ukraine and accused “Western elites” of fomenting conflicts around the world.

“Russia will do everything to prevent a global clash, but at the same time we will not allow anyone to threaten us. Our strategic forces are always on alert,” Putin told the crowd.

“Russia is now going through a difficult, crucial period. The fate of the Motherland, its future depends on each of us,” he said.

The May 9 parade commemorates the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II and has become the Kremlin’s most important public holiday as Putin puts the country firmly on a combat footing.

Putin has used nuclear rhetoric throughout the conflict but has grown increasingly belligerent since last year, pulling out of a nuclear test ban treaty and a key arms reduction agreement with the United States.

Earlier this week, he ordered the Russian military to hold nuclear drills involving the navy and troops based near Ukraine, raising fears he could use the powerful weapons on the battlefield.

In comments recorded on Tuesday but released by the Kremlin after the parade, Putin vowed to modernise his army’s weaponry and said Russia would use whatever foreign parts it could get to make them.

“Modern military technology is changing very fast. If we want to be successful, we always have to be one step ahead,” he said in a meeting with army commanders.

Putin has repeatedly framed the current fight against Ukraine as an existential battle against “Nazism”, a message he reiterated in his address Thursday.

“We bow our heads before the memory of civilians killed by barbaric shelling and terrorist attacks by neo-Nazis,” he said.

“Those on the front line, on the line of contact — are our heroes. We bow before your steadfastness and self-sacrifice, selflessness. All Russia is with you,” he continued.

Two women were killed Thursday by Ukrainian shelling of Russia’s border regions, which have been regularly attacked by Ukraine since the conflict began.

Shelling on a village street in the Belgorod region close to the border killed one, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

Further west in the Kursk region, a woman was killed by a direct hit on a house in a village near the border, while another woman suffered shrapnel wounds, Governor Roman Starovoyt wrote on Telegram.

An overnight aerial attack on the city of Belgorod, around 30 kilometres (20 miles) from Ukraine, injured 11, Gladkov said earlier.

Security in Moscow was tight ahead of this year’s parade, amid repeated Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory and after an Islamic State group attack on a concert hall near the capital in March killed dozens.

Other parts of Russia including the western Kursk and Pskov regions cancelled their parades due to security concerns.

The Moscow parade featured columns of Russian military equipment but was notably scaled back compared to past years as Moscow mobilises its resources for the Ukrainian front.

“We come to see it every year,” said 44-year-old Yelena Melikhova, who watched the procession of military equipment heading to Red Square.

“It’s very touching, very exciting.”

Svetlana Sycheva, 48, said she was filled with “pride” while watching the parade.

“Even in such difficult times we have the opportunity to rejoice, and to feel the emotions that we have just experienced,” she told AFP.

Russia often invites representatives from countries it deems “friendly” to the event, though attendance had dwindled even before it sent troops into Ukraine in early 2022 amid a stand-off with the West.

Nine world leaders attended Thursday’s parade — the heads of ex-Soviet republics Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — as well as the leaders of Cuba, Laos and Guinea-Bissau.

The 71-year-old Putin has ruled Russia since the turn of the century, securing a fresh six-year mandate in March after winning presidential elections devoid of all opposition.

Russia’s army held off a much-hyped Ukrainian counter-offensive last year, and it has since made gains on the front lines as Kyiv struggles with ammunition and manpower shortages.

Thursday’s festivities come two days after Putin vowed at a lavish inauguration to “overcome all obstacles, realise everything we have planned, and together, we will win”.


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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