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President Vladimir Putin has justified Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as a necessary step to ‘defend the fatherland’, a claim Britain says reflects the fascism and tyranny that sparked World War II, then that Russian forces continued their offensive in the east and south of the country. the country.

In Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promised his war-torn nation that Ukraine would soon have “two days of victory”, as the last Ukrainian defenders of the beleaguered steelworks from Azovstal to Mariupol vowed to fight until at the end against the Russian troops who surrounded them.

Putin, who presided over a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square to mark the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in 1945, reiterated his accusation that NATO was creating threats right next to its borders and asserted that the invasion of Ukraine was a necessary preventive action.

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He also addressed soldiers fighting in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, which Russia has pledged to “liberate” from kyiv.

“Defending the homeland when its fate is decided has always been sacred,” he said.

In his own speech marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, Zelenskiy on May 9 compared the Allies’ struggle against Hitler to his nation’s struggle to repel Russian aggression.

“We will never forget what our ancestors did during World War II, where more than 8 million Ukrainians died. One in five Ukrainians has not returned home,” Zelenskiy said, adding: “Soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine. And someone won’t even have one. We then won. We will win now too,” he said.

Meanwhile, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace denounced “the absurdity of the Russian generals – resplendent in their neat parade uniforms and weighed down by their many medals”, saying they were “completely complicit in the hijacking by Putin of the proud history of their ancestors…repelling fascism.”

“All professional soldiers should be appalled by the behavior of the Russian military” because not only have they “engaged in illegal invasion and war crimes, but their senior ranks have failed in their own rank and record in the to the extent that they should be brought to justice”. martialed,” he said in a speech at the British National Army Museum.

“Thanks to the invasion of Ukraine, Putin and his entourage of generals now reflect the fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago, repeating the mistakes of the totalitarian regime of the last century,” he added.

On May 9, US President Joe Biden signed largely symbolic legislation to revive the World War II lend-lease program that helped defeat Nazi Germany.

Before signing the bill, Biden said “Putin’s war” was “once again bringing about the wanton destruction of Europe,” referring to the anniversary of the Allied victory in 1945.

Although there was speculation that Putin might officially declare war on Ukraine, his 11-minute speech provided no assessment of the progress of the war and gave no indication of how long it would last. -this.

Russian forces have so far failed to complete the occupation of the strategic port of Mariupol in the Sea of ​​Azov, where around 2,000 Ukrainian fighters continue to hold out in the vast network of underground tunnels and bunkers in Azovstal steelworks.

Azovstal gained symbolic value in the conflict, as Russian forces sought a celebratory victory before May 9. Zelenskiy warned against more intense attacks on the remaining defenders, who vowed to fight to the end.

The complete capture of Mariupol would also deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to complete a land corridor to the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula, and free up troops to fight elsewhere.

Second World War veteran Ivan Lisun, 97, wears a jacket with his medals and pins outside his house, which was damaged after a Russian bombardment, in Zolochiv, near Kharkiv.

Second World War veteran Ivan Lisun, 97, wears a jacket with his medals and pins outside his house, which was damaged after a Russian bombardment, in Zolochiv, near Kharkiv.

On the battlefield, intense fighting raged in eastern Ukraine, the southern port of Odessa came under missile attack, and Russian forces sought to finish off Ukrainian steelworks defenders , who have sworn to fight to the end.

The Odessa city council said late on May 9 that three missiles were fired from a plane, destroying five buildings. Two people were injured and taken to hospital, according to a council statement.

According to the city council, rescuers managed to rescue a dog from under the rubble.

“This is how they celebrate their Victory Day. Apparently the only thing the occupiers have won is common sense and humanity,” said Maksym Marchenko, head of the Odessa regional military administration. .

Earlier on May 9, Russian troops fired four missiles into the Odessa region from occupied Crimea. The missile strike occurred while European Council President Charles Michel was visiting the city.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said there were indications that Ukrainians had been “taken against their will to Russia”.

Asked about kyiv’s claims that more than a million Ukrainians were being sent to Russia and placed in camps, Kirby said, “I can’t say how many camps or what they look like.” He called the actions “inadmissible” and “not the behavior of a responsible power”.

On May 8, the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) commemorated the anniversary of the end of World War II by pledging to “spare no effort” to restrain Putin and the architects “and accomplices in this aggression”. , including the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus, responsible for their actions.

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States mentioned Putin’s actions “bring Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people to shame”.

WATCH: Fighting continues to rage near Vuhledar, a town in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. Due to continuous and unpredictable shelling by Russian forces, many people live in basements. Buildings were cut off from electricity, water and gas. Civilian victims are buried in an improvised cemetery.

After the meeting, the United States announced sanctions against three Russian TV stations and Gazprombank executives, as well as a ban on Americans providing accounting and consulting services to Russians.

Zelenskiy also told G7 leaders that 60 civilians died in the bombing of a school on May 7 in the eastern Luhansk region.

“They were hiding from the shelling in the building of an ordinary school, which was attacked by a Russian airstrike,” he said.

British officials announced an additional $1.6 billion in military aid for Ukraine, while Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its regular May 9 bulletin that the invasion of Moscow “exposed shortcomings in its ability to conduct large-scale precision strikes” and showed complete disregard for civilian lives.

“Russia has subjected Ukrainian cities to intense and indiscriminate bombardment with little or no regard for civilian casualties,” the official said. the ministry said.

With reports from AP, Reuters, AFP and dpa

Berta D. Wells