Russian military vehicles roll through Red Square in Moscow on Monday during the Victory Day military parade. Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE
May 9 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed NATO and Western nations for Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine during remarks Monday to commemorate Victory Day, the annual celebration of victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Putin, supreme commander-in-chief of Russia's Armed Forces, attended the traditional military parade in Moscow that included about 11,000 people and dozens of military equipment units in Red Square to commemorate the 77th anniversary.
During his speech, Putin acknowledged his invasion of Ukraine by denouncing Western nations and painting them as aggressors unwilling to negotiate with him and prolonging the fighting in the former Soviet republic that began on Feb. 24.
The longtime Russian leader repeated that last year, during the military buildup of some 150,000 troops along Ukraine's eastern border, he proposed a security treaty with Western nations and sought to raise security concerns -- but NATO countries "did not want to hear us, which means that in fact they had completely different plans."
Putin has previously cited attempts at security reforms, and the lack of interest in the West, as part of the motivation for his campaign in Ukraine. Part of those concerns includes a hard line against NATO's expansion eastward with members such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Putin has also staunchly opposed Ukraine joining the military alliance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin traditionally speaks on Victory Day in Moscow's Red Square each May 9 to commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany during World War II. UPI File Photo
On Monday, the Russian president accused adversaries of openly preparing to invade "our historical lands" of the Donbas in the east of Ukraine and Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014.
Putin also claimed there's been talk in Kyiv of acquiring nuclear weapons and that NATO had "begun active military development of territories adjacent to us" as justification for the Russian invasion.
"Thus, a threat absolutely unacceptable to us was systematically created directly at our borders," he said. "I repeat, we saw how the military infrastructure was being developed, how hundreds of foreign advisers began to work, there were regular deliveries of the most modern weapons from NATO. The danger grew every day."
Putin and Kremlin officials have described the war in Ukraine as a "special military operation" aimed at demilitarizing and "de-Nazifying" the former Soviet republic. It has been denounced and opposed by the international community, which has included sanctions, as well as efforts to help arm Kyiv in the battle and send humanitarian support for the millions of refugees who have fled Ukraine.
In Putin's remarks Monday, he claimed that Russia's military has "proactively rebuffed aggression."
"It was a forced, timely and only right decision," he said. "The decision of a sovereign, strong, independent country."
Ahead of the speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky published a recorded speech of his own, stating on this Victory Day they are in a new fight, one that they will win.
"There is no occupier who can take root in our free land. There is no invader who can rule over our free people," he said. "Sooner or later, we win. Despite the horde, despite Nazism, despite the mixture of the first and the second, which is the current enemy, we win, because this is our land.
"And soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine," he said. "And someone will not have even one left."
Russia's invasion has resulted in the deaths of more than 3,300 Ukrainian civilians and forced more than 5.8 million to flee the country, according to United Nations data.
Lyubov Ivanovna Vlasenko, 70, (L) and her husband Gennady Ivanovich Sergeev, 74, eat lunch in the basement-turned bunker moments after Russian artillery landed approximately 800 meters away in the Pyatikhatki district, of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 1, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo