Putin says West 'forced' Ukraine offensive as Russia marks Victory Day
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to cast Moscow’s military action in Ukraine as a forced response to Western policies.
It came as Russia has been marking Victory Day on Monday with a special military parade in Moscow.
The day commemorates the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II and comes amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In his speech, Putin said the campaign in Ukraine was a timely and necessary move to ward off what he described as “an absolutely unacceptable threat just next to our borders”.
The Russian leader's message was in line with a consistent narrative from Moscow and repeated in Kremlin-controlled state media: that Russia is responding to a perceived threat from the West, and particularly NATO.
“The danger was rising,” Putin said, adding that “Russia has preemptively repulsed an aggression” in what he described as a “forced, timely and the only correct decision by a sovereign, powerful and independent country.”
The Russian leader again scolded the West for failing to heed Russian demands for security guarantees and a rollback to NATO’s expansion, arguing that it left Moscow no other choice but to launch an action in Ukraine.
"In December last year, we proposed the conclusion of an agreement on security guarantees. Russia called on the West to enter an honest dialogue, in search of reasonable compromise solutions, to take each other’s interests into account. It was all in vain."
Putin's previous assertions along these lines have been rubbished by Kyiv — which posed no military threat to Moscow — and the West. Many of Russia's neighbours have freely chosen or applied to join NATO to counter the threat from Russia, which since Putin came to power has launched wars in Chechnya, Georgia and now Ukraine.
Putin claimed that Russian troops were fighting for the country’s security in Ukraine and observed a minute of silence to honour the troops who fell in combat. Putin noted that some of the troops taking part in the parade have previously fought in Ukraine.
Putin drew parallels between the Red Army’s fighting against the Nazi troops and the Russian forces’ action in Ukraine.