The US government is criticizing Vladimir Putin’s claim that his war on Ukraine is ‘defensive’ as Moscow celebrates its World War II victory over Nazi Germany on its May 9 Victory Day celebration.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki accused Putin of ‘perverting history’ in his speech holding up Russia’s military even as the western world accuses the Eastern European nation of perpetrating war crimes in slaughtering thousands of civilians during its brutal invasion.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters it was ‘patently absurd’ for Russia’s autocrat leader to say his operation in Ukraine was not an aggressive attack.
Meanwhile his counterpart at the Pentagon tore into the Russian government’s accusations that Ukraine’s government is run by Nazis.
‘You know who’s in Ukraine? Ukrainians. Not Nazis,’ Defense Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Monday.
It comes as Putin attempted to cast his bloody war in a positive light during the Kremlin’s Victory Day celebration in the Red Square, during which the nation honors the 27 million lives lost by the Soviet Union during World War II.
‘You are fighting for the Motherland, for its future, so that no one will forget the lessons of World War Two. So that there is no place in the world for hangmen, executioners and Nazis,’ Putin addressed the assembled crowd.
Asked about Putin’s comments at a State Department press briefing, Price refused to ‘respond directly to something that is so ahistorical, something that is so divorced from reality.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the Victory Day military parade marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 9
The autocrat leader told his troops and supporters that Russia was once again fighting Nazism – a claim that’s been widely panned by the West
‘It’s an opportunity for us to be clear about the facts and the reality. Contrary to what we heard today in Moscow, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a brutal war of choice. It was unprovoked, it was unjustified, it was premeditated and it has brought catastrophic loss of life across Ukraine,’ he said.
Price again accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine, including the recent bombing of a school in eastern Ukraine, which is still under Moscow’s occupation.
‘To call this a defensive action is patently absurd,’ he said. ‘To call this anything other than a premeditated war of choice … is an affront to the historical record,’ he said.
Putin told his troops and supporters at Wednesday’s celebration that they were fighting ‘a threat that was absolutely unacceptable to us (that) has been methodically created next to our borders.’
‘The danger was rising by the day,’ he claimed, adding that ‘Russia has given a preemptive response to an aggression’ in what he described as a ‘forced, timely and the only correct decision by a sovereign, powerful and independent country.’
The Russian leader has repeatedly accused Ukraine of harboring aggressive intentions, with support from the U.S. and its allies — claims Ukrainian and Western officials have denied.
State Department spokesman Ned Price (left) and Pentagon spokesman John Kirby (left) both condemned Putin’s framing of his brutal invasion
Putin again scolded the West for failing to heed Russian demands for security guarantees and a rollback to NATO’s expansion, arguing that it left Moscow no other choice but to launch an action in Ukraine.
Psaki said at her press briefing later that day, ‘What we saw President Putin do is giving a version of revisionist history that took the form of disinformation that we have seen too commonly as the Russian playbook.’
She added that the US and its European allies ‘are aware of the disinformation factory that President Putin and the Kremlin seems to be.’
‘But the suggestion that this war that was prompted – directed by President Putin – was prompted by Western aggression or Western plans is patently false, and absurd.’
Like Price, Psaki accused Russian troops of committing ‘war crimes’ and ‘atrocities’ in Ukraine amid numerous reports and documented footage of slain civilians and accounts of Russian forces raping, torturing and killing innocents.
The Pentagon’s spokesman tore into Putin calling the war ‘forced’ and ‘timely’ during his own briefing with reporters on Wednesday.
‘He talked about this being a justified military operation — it’s not, he still had diplomatic options on the table on February 24 and chose to ignore them,’ Kirby said forcefully. ‘Ukraine posed no threat – not only no threat to Russia, but no threat to anybody else.’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki repeated accusations that Putin’s troops are committing war crimes in Ukraine amid dozens of accounts and images showing slaughtered civilians
‘He said it was timely, that it needed to happen now – again, no it didn’t, he had plenty of options available to him.’
Kirby said Putin instead should have discussed ‘plans to end the war’ – but added the Pentagon did not expect him to do so.
He also called the Russian autocrat’s claim that Ukraine was imminently about to acquire nuclear weapons ‘just not true.’
Some in Ukraine and the West expected Putin to use his speech at the parade to switch from describing the Russian action in Ukraine that the Russian officials have called the “special military operation” to calling it a war.
Putin didn’t make any such shift in rhetoric or give any indication that the Kremlin may change its strategy and declare a broad mobilization to beef up the ranks.
The Kremlin has focused on Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas, where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014. That conflict erupted weeks after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
The Russian military has rearmed and resupplied its forces withdrawn from areas near Kyiv and other regions in Ukraine’s northeast and moved them to Donbas in an apparent attempt to encircle and destroy the most capable and seasoned Ukrainian troops concentrated there.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his own Victory Day address expressed hope that his forces will successfully repel Russia’s attack – after more than seven weeks of war.
‘On the Day of Victory over Nazism, we are fighting for a new victory. The road to it is difficult, but we have no doubt that we will win,’ Zelensky said.
US President Joe Biden acknowledged the former Soviet bloc’s May 9 Victory Day by signing a new version of the World War II-era Lend-Lease agreement.
The updated law will give him virtually unlimited authority to send arms and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in the name of upholding US national security.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt previously signed the original iteration into law to help Europe’s Allies fight Adolf Hitler without directly entering the war – which most Americans had been against until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor later that year.