Russia and Ukraine: May 9
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We've seen attempts to create a unipolar world... --Vladimir Putin
On the cover:
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square May 9, 2014. Russia celebrates the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany on May 9, 2015. ©2017 Alexei Nikolskiy
The WW2 Victory parade and Ukrainian response
While Russian President Vladimir Putin used the momentous anniversary bolster patriotism, in Kiev, President Petro Poroshenko said Moscow was "stealing the credit for the World War Two victory at Ukraine's expense."
While many from the west chose to pass on attending the parade, Putin was joined by more than 30 foreign leaders, most notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who sat on the right-hand side of the Russian President for the entire 90-minute ceremony, complete with over-the-shoulder interpreting and the Chinese leaders wife. Demonstrating even closer ties between the two, a cluster of Chinese troops also partook in the May 9th celebration parade.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was also the spectators, as were dignitaries from India, former Soviet republics and communist-era allies such as Cuba. Interestingly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not attend the parade, but attended a wreath-laying ceremony in Moscow on Sunday.
On show in Moscow was the Armata T-14, Russia's first new tank for 40 years. Soldiers, some in World War Two uniforms, filed past under blue skies and bright sunshine. Countless war veterans observed the ceremony in Red Square, covered in magnificent metals and the surrounding city was bogged down by thousands of fans screaming with proud, yet somber, support for the event and it's veterans.
"Victory Day is the most important holiday for Russia. In practically every Russian family, someone has died fighting for this country," said 43-year-old former marine Alexander Smolkin, in his light-blue beret, medals and fatigues. "My own grandfather died defending Russia, this is our day to remember them."
In recent public statements, Putin has said fascism may very well be on the rise again. The bold leader has also stated that other countries are "rewriting history to play down Moscow's role" in winning the war.
"The basic principles of international cooperation have been ignored more often in the last decades - the principles that were hard won by humankind following the global hardships of the war," said Putin while thousands of Russian troops listened before the Kremlin. "We've seen attempts to create a unipolar world," he said, reminding listeners of one of his 2007 speeches where he scolded the West's perception of "the world."
Later on Saturday, the Russian leader spearheaded over half a million people, most holding signs and pictures of family members who fought in the war through Red Square for the "Immortal Regiment" march. "I'm very happy that my father is with me now, I'm holding his portrait in my hands," Putin said to a television reporter as she walked along side Putin and countless Russian security brutes.
Most Russians I spoke to view the West's boycott as disrespect to a patriotic memorial. As Reuters reports, an estimated 27 million Soviet citizens were killed in the war, which began for the Soviet Union when the Nazis invaded in 1941. Ukraine says it lost 8-10 million citizens, including 3.5 million who fought in the Soviet forces.
Poroshenko rebuked Moscow for accusing Ukrainians of using "fascist" methods to oust Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich last year, an event that some say prompted Russia to annex Crimea from Ukraine and pro-Russian forces to start a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine. Others say that Russia simply reclaimed it's own territory, which was given away by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 without the nations' permission. (1)
Right Sector and the Cynics
Ukrainian nationalism has suffered relentless accusations of fascist sympathies since numerous Ukrainians welcomed the Nazi occupation as a means to fight Soviet Communist rule. At this point, Putin's Moscow leadership draws response to Yanukovich's overthrow which was allegedly backed by the far-right group Right Sector. (2)
"It is the utmost cynicism to depict our country as a supposedly fascist state," Poroshenko said on Saturday. "It is done with the aim of justifying to the Russian people its own criminal action: Russia's aggression against Ukraine." Ukraine had joined most of Europe in commemorating the end of the war on Friday, a day before Russia.
"We will never again mark this day with the Russian scenario that cold-bloodedly uses our Victory Day as an apology for its expansionist policies and for keeping its neighbors in its orbit and recreating empire," Poroshenko said.
Regardless of personal opinions, politician agenda's, and ongoing political/military discourse, the Victory Day parade continues to be the biggest and most spectacular military parade on the planet. This author witnessed nothing but genuine memorials and sincere patriotism by a country's citizens.
Aaron Stipkovich, Publisher: With an education in information, technology, business and related disciplines, Aaron entered business on radio. Beginning as a disc jockey in Southern California, a nationally syndicated talk show host position soon followed. During the transition from regional to national, he launched a national print magazine in several countries, and was distributed by Time Inc. Having a handful of humble business media entities, a decade or so later he has divested himself from most of his companies... (more...)