Putin vows to defend Russian interests amid soaring tensions with West

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Russian President Vladimir Putin reviewed the country’s World War II victory parade Sunday amid spiking tensions with the West – as he vowed that Moscow will “firmly” defend national interests.

“The Soviet people kept their sacred oath, defended the homeland and freed the countries of Europe from the black plague,” the leader told thousands of troops and veterans amassed in Red Square, Agence France-Presse reported.

“Russia consistently defends international law. At the same time, we will firmly defend our national interests to ensure the safety of our people,” he added, as recent tensions between the Kremlin and the West over the conflict in Ukraine and a series of spy scandals in Europe evoked memories of the Cold War.

Putin also denounced what he called a creeping return of ideologies of the time, when “slogans of racial and national superiority, of anti-Semitism and Russophobia, became ever more cynical.”

More than 12,000 troops took part in Sunday’s parade, as well as about 190 pieces of military hardware and 76 military aircraft.

“Unfortunately, there are once again attempts to deploy many things from the ideology of the Nazis, those who were obsessed with a delusional theory on their exclusiveness,” the Russian leader said.

“And not only (by) all sorts of radicals and international terrorist groups,” Putin said.

This year’s parade, which precedes parliamentary elections in September, comes at a time when Moscow’s relations with the West are severely strained over issues ranging from the conflict in Ukraine to the fate of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Washington and Moscow have expelled each other’s diplomats in recent months in a series of retaliatory moves. Moscow and EU member states have engaged in a similar tit-for-tat diplomatic dispute.

This year’s Victory Day was the second during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Russia has lifted nearly all of its measures to limit the spread of the deadly bug, though a ban remains in place on mass gatherings in most regions.

With Post wires

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