Russian President Vladimir Putin will address his nation from Moscow during the country’s Victory Day celebrations against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, including Mariupol where the holiday was recently unbanned but resistance fighters still held out at a steelworks plant.
Russians were set to celebrate Victory Day on Monday, an annual event marking the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, with all eyes on the presidential speech and a parade in Red Square as Putin presses on with Russia's fight in Ukraine.
Putin, who has repeatedly said the war in Ukraine was a battle to denazify Ukraine, has likened the conflict to the challenge the Soviet Union faced when Adolf Hitler invaded in 1941.
'Our common duty is to prevent the renaissance of Nazism which has brought so much suffering to people of different countries'
"Our common duty is to prevent the renaissance of Nazism which has brought so much suffering to people of different countries," Putin said in a message to the peoples of 12 former Soviet republics including Ukraine and Georgia.
"As in 1945, victory will be ours," Putin said.
Zelensky says "evil has returned"
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who gave a Victory in Europe Day speech a day earlier due to different time zones, argued Russia had launched an unprovoked war of aggression, while western governments have sided with Kiev.
“The evil has returned. Again! In a different form, under different slogans, but for the same purpose,” Zelensky said.
Putin is expected to speak as Ukrainian nationalist fighters and foreign mercenaries are still holding out in Azovstal, a steelworks plant in Mariupol where Victory Day had been banned since 2015 until recently when control of the city came under Russian forces.
But rumored plans to hold a parade in Mariupol did not materialize, reports said, as fighting in Ukraine raged on.
Reports on Monday also said dozens of people were reportedly killed in Bilohorivka, a village 60 miles north-west of the Russian-controlled city of Luhansk, after taking refuge at a school. Their previous shelter in a clubhouse had been destroyed in an earlier attack, media reports said.