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Putin declares ... nothing

JUST NOW: Putin declares ... nothing

Vladimir Putin watches a military parade on Victory Day in Moscow.

Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

In the end, Russian President Vladimir Putin threw the experts for a loop again.

In his Victory Day speech in Moscow a few hours ago, he didn’t formally declare war on Ukraine, announce a general mobilization, or claim even a partial victory in the conflict. In fact, he didn’t utter the word “Ukraine” a single time.

Rather, he framed the conflict as a justified Russian response not only to a threat posed by the “neo-Nazis” in Kyiv and their NATO backers, but also to 30 years of broader mistreatment at the hands of a decadent and hostile West.

In perhaps the only real clue about Moscow’s intentions, he called the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine “our land” but didn’t mention any other mainland parts of the country.

In the end, this was a cautious speech, one meant to bolster Russian popular support for continued action in Ukraine, but without raising the stakes too high, too soon, for the Russian public.

Putin can still declare a general mobilization or an official "war" any time he likes, but he appears to see such a move — which would instantly expose a much broader swathe of the population directly to the war — as unwise or unnecessary for the moment.

The counter-programming from Kyiv

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released his own Victory Day speech — a slickly produced video address in which he celebrates Ukraine’s own role in the defeat of Hitler and lists a number of cities that were liberated from Nazi occupation 77 years ago. They are all cities occupied by Russian troops today. ”On victory day,” he said, “we are fighting for a new victory.”


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