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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Never say «Never again»

Photo: A shot from the video address by Volodymyr Zelenskyy on May 8 in Borodyanka
Source: Channel 5

In May, the leaders of the Russian Federation and Ukraine addressed their citizens with speeches on the occasion of a Victory Day over Nazism. The speech of Russian President Vladimir Putin took place on a date typical to post-Soviet countries - May 9, during a military parade on Red Square. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in turn, addressed on May 8. Ukraine, like the entire civilized world, honors those who died in World War II on the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation. Such, at first glance, a symbolic step actually indicates a mental abyss between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples. This abyss is also reflected in the content of the speeches of leaders of two states.

Until May 9, there were expectations that Vladimir Putin could officially declare war on Ukraine, abandoning the meaningless term of a special military operation and declaring a general mobilization in the state. However, this did not happen. Russia approached Victory Day without big victories which Russian president could sell to his own population. On the contrary, the parade itself has become an indicator of the effectiveness of the Ukrainian army. For the first time in many years, celebrations in different cities of Russia were held without equipment. On Red Square, according to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, 131 pieces of equipment were to be used, which is almost a third less than last year. The air part was canceled due to "non-flying weather" despite clear skies. Even the so-called a doomsday aircraft which can carry senior leadership in the event of a nuclear war was not used. Although it was involved in preparations for the parade. Also, there were no heavy flamethrower systems "Solntsepek", anti-aircraft systems "Pantsir-S".

Some of these military equipment are being used by the Ukrainian armed forces to defend against a Russian invasion following their capture. The number of military personnel participating in the parade was also reduced. According to military expert Oleh Zhdanov, Russia involved almost its entire army in the war with Ukraine, therefore, the military from the Moscow military units and students were herded to the parade. Instead of proclaiming the successes of the so-called. "special operation", Vladimir Putin remembered the losses in the war with Ukraine, promising financial assistance to the families of the victims. There was no victorious hysteria in Moscow this year.

Putin's speech was as unconvincing as the parade itself. His words were rather aimed at justifying the aggression against Ukraine. To an external audience, Putin said that everything must be done to avoid a global war. Perhaps the absence of the Il-80 aircraft was an attempt to emphasize this thesis. Russia, he said, stands for the creation of an equal and indivisible security system, and the attack on Ukraine was provoked by the actions of the West. NATO allegedly prepared an attack on "historical Russian lands", Crimea and Donbas, and carried out military development on the territories bordering the Russian Federation.

Such manipulative theses of the President of Russia at the current stage are unlikely to affect the partner countries of Ukraine, however, the Russian population accepts such rhetoric and believes it. The lack of significant military victories of the armed forces of the Russian Federation forced Vladimir Putin to return to his already familiar role of a historian. In particular, among the Russians, he mentioned the names of historical figures of Ukraine, Volodymyr Monomakh and Sidor Kovpak, who, according to the plan of Putin's speechwriters, should emphasize the unity of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, and along with the laying of flowers on the stelae of the hero cities of Odesa and Kyiv, the belonging of the Ukrainian territories to Russia. And on the same day, Russian ships bombarded Odessa with rockets. They congratulated the hero city with a kind of deadly salute, showing all the cynicism and insignificance of V. Putin's solemn speeches on the celebration of a Victory Day.

The President of Russia recalled the battles of the Soviet army on the territory of the former USSR, and said that now "the Russian army is doing the same thing" protecting people of Donbas. The memory of the Second World War has long become an instrument of the Kremlin's ideology of rascism. So far, it is used for internal legitimation of aggression against Ukraine. Vladimir Putin did not specify that with the so-called "liberation" of the cities of Donbas, the Russian army destroys the cities themselves, such as Mariupol, Volnovakha or Popasna, because otherwise it is simply not capable of knocking out Ukrainian defenders from their positions. President of Russia did not mention Mariupol in his speech. No matter how much the Kremlin would like to capture the biggest city controlled by Ukraine in the Donetsk region since 2014, by May 9, the defenders of the city are still exercising their duty at the Azovstal plant, hoping for extraction, which is almost the only possible way to save their lives.

Nevertheless, the destruction of Ukrainian cities did not prevent the Russian invaders and representatives of the occupation administrations from arranging a "celebration" on May 9th. Events were held in many cities of the South, in particular, among the ruins of Mariupol. A surreal action took place there: while people fought for their lives on Azovstal, other residents stood in lines for humanitarian aid, while a column led by the joyful head of the “DPR” occupation administration Denis Pushilin carried a huge St. George ribbon through the damaged streets. The St. George Ribbon has become a symbol of the Russian military and is banned in Ukraine. However, on May 9, this symbol of rascism was demonstrated not only in Russia and in the occupied territories.

European states still allow rascists from Russian diaspora to use it. On May 9, the police in Berlin removed the Ukrainian flag, while the Russians with the flags of the aggressor country and St. George ribbons - symbols of aggression, received the right to rally. European countries should decide what it means to resist Russia and are foreign Russians part of this Russia? Putin has support among the foreign diaspora, which supports the so-called "Putin's war" as well as the inhabitants of the Russian Federation. Those who support Russian fascism have no right to stay in civilized countries. The mental gap between Russians and European society, part of which is Ukraine, is enormous.

This can be traced through the contrast between the speech of Volodymyr Zelenskyy on May 8 and the speech of the Russian leader. On May 8, the President of Ukraine addressed those countries that remember the horrors of World War II: "This year we say "Never again "differently. We hear "Never Again" differently. It sounds painful, cruel. Without an exclamation, but with a question mark. You say: never again? Tell Ukraine about it. On February 24, the word "never" was erased. They shot and bombed. Hundreds of rockets at 4 am, which woke up the whole of Ukraine. We heard terrible explosions. We heard: again!” Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned the bombing of Coventry and compared it to the shelling of Kharkiv, and dropping the "Fau" on Belfast, Portsmouth, Liverpool he compared with the launching of missiles at Mykolayiv, Kramatorsk and Chernihiv. He drew parallels between the occupation of French cities, the massacres of locals in Oradour-sur-Glane, Tulle, the village of Ascq, and the crimes committed by Russians in Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka, Volnovakha and Trostyanets, and the occupation of southern Ukraine. “The Czechs have not forgotten this ... The Americans remember this ... all Holocaust survivors ... Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Danes, Georgians, Armenians, Belgians, Norwegians, and many others have not forgotten this - all those who suffered from Nazism on their land, and all those who defeated it in the anti-Hitler coalition".

Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to Europeans in a language they understand. In these societies people do not say "we can repeat", there, as in Ukraine, they perceive the war as a tragedy and say "never again". However, the war is already taking place on the European continent. Fascist Russia staged genocide in Ukraine, occupied part of the territory, and a policy of appeasement cannot be the answer. At this time, Europe needs a common policy of countering Russia.

So far, despite success in coordinating sanctions, EU countries have been providing support and restrictive measures in different ways. The Baltic countries are imposing not only economic and energy sector sanctions, but also restrictions on the demonstration of rascist symbols. This is a comprehensive approach with the understanding that the current war is not the choice of one person. At the same time, in Berlin, the rascists have the right to hold rallies with a symbol of the current aggression. Rascism poses a threat to the further development of Europe, so the bearers of this ideology should be isolated from the civilized world. Such measures are needed not only in Poland or the Baltic countries, but wherever possible, because the war between the Russian Federation and the civilized world has several fronts and covers not only the military-political and economic dimension, but also the ideological one.

In his May speech, Vladimir Putin mentioned Russian traditional values, they are mentioned in the latest national security strategy of 2020. The inhumane ideology professed in modern Russia must be stopped. Stopped, as noted, mentally and practically. Today, soldiers with St. George ribbons keep the defenders of the city of Mariupol under siege at the Azovstal plant. More than a thousand people may become another victim of Russian ideology. Therefore, by the end of May, the international community needs to make every possible effort to organize the procedure of the extraction for servicemen from Azovstal so that these people are not put on the altar of rascism.

1. Ярослав Лепеха, На параді 9 травня в Москві буде менше техніки, ніж минулого року - BBC, 30.04.2022,
URL: minulogo-roku-bbc/  
2. Богдан Приходько, "Парад в Москве: что испугало Путина и почему показали так мало оружия и техники - послесловие",
3. Звернення Президента України з нагоди Дня пам'яті та примирення, 08.05.2022,