09 May 2024, 23:28

Putin says nuclear forces 'always' on alert in Victory Day speech

          MOSCOW, May  9, 2024 (AFP) - 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 

       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 

       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.
       - 'Russia is with you' -
       Putin has repeatedly framed the current fight against Ukraine as an 
existential battle against "Nazism", a message he reiterated in his address 

       "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 

       "Even in such difficult times we have the opportunity to rejoice, and to 
feel the emotions that we have just experienced," she told AFP.
       - 'We will win' -
       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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