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Offensive to continue: Putin

Putin\'s Victory Day speech far from triumphant

Published : Tuesday, 9 May, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 322

Putin's Victory Day speech far from triumphantKyiv, May 8: Every year, on May 9 Russia celebrates "Victory Day", a commemoration of the USSR's defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously used the anniversary to project Moscow's moral superiority over Nazism - and anyone he opts to label a "Nazi".

In the lead-up to Russia's Victory Day this year, observers speculated about the potential contents of Putin's address. Some experts predicted Putin would express triumph regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Others suggested the Russian president could use his speech to declare the annexation of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists declared breakaway republics in 2014.

There were also warnings that Putin could announce a national mobilisation effort to boost the ranks of the Russian military.

But the president's address to 11,000 servicemen in Red Square on Monday did not mention the word "Ukraine" once.

"He avoids the word because it is associated with trouble, defeat, thwarted hopes and expectations," Volodymyr Fesenko, of the Kyiv-based Penta think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

When Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Kremlin said the goal of the "special military operation" was to "denazify" and "demilitarise" its neighbour.

But in the weeks since then, Russian forces have suffered a series of setbacks on the battlefield and been forced to withdraw forces from several fronts. The Ukrainian defence ministry has estimated that some 25,000 Russian servicemen have been killed. Russia's most recent estimate in late March was more than 1,300 Russian forces had been killed.

Meanwhile, rounds of punitive sanctions targeting Russian officials and sectors of the Russian economy have left Putin increasingly isolated on the world stage and hurt the Russian economy.

One analyst noted that Putin's speech appeared to show that Moscow has not decided on a plan on how to end the war in Ukraine.

"Judging by how Putin placed his assessments, Russia so far has no decision about how to exit the war," Igar Tyshkevich, a Belarusian analyst based in Kyiv, told Al Jazeera.

"They didn't achieve their goals, but don't know what to do instead," he said.

Many analysts believe Russia's initial goal was to achieve a quick victory after the initial invasion, but that this strategy failed for a number of reasons, including poor supplies of food, fuel and ammunition for servicemen and inaccurate expectations that Ukrainians would welcome Russian invaders as "liberators", among others.

Russia has since said it would refocus its military efforts on eastern Ukraine, but its progress has remained unsteady amid fierce Ukrainian resistance.

In Monday's address, Putin focused on the continuing offensive in the eastern Donbas region, mentioning it five times in his speech.

"These days, you are fighting for our people in Donbas," he said, a reference to the Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the industrial region - who, according to the Kremlin, needed its "protection".    �Al Jazeera

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