Ukrainian servicemen fire with a 105mm howitzer toward Russian positions near the city of Bakhmut amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
PHOTO: Aris Messinis, AFP
- Russia launched the biggest drone swarm in months against Ukraine, targeting several cities on the eve of its Victory Day holiday.
- Ukrainian President Zelensky marked Victory Day by commemorating the heroism of Ukrainians fighting Russia.
- Moscow prepared for the Victory Day parade, while Ukraine received European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, underscoring its ambition to join the West.
Russia launched its biggest swarm of drones for months against Ukraine on Monday, the eve of Russia’s 9 May holiday celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Ukraine commemorated the occasion, known as Victory Day, on Monday in a symbolic break with Moscow. President Volodymyr Zelensky compared the Ukrainian troops fighting Russia with those battling the Nazis.
Kyiv’s mayor said Russia had fired 60 Iranian-made kamikaze drones at Ukrainian targets, including 36 at the capital, all of which had been shot down. Debris hit apartments and other buildings, injuring at least five people in the city.
A missile set a food warehouse in the Black Sea city of Odesa set ablaze, where officials reported three people were injured.
It was the biggest drone swarm yet in a renewed Russian air campaign unleashed 10 days ago after a lull since early March.
Kyiv said Moscow was also making a final push to capture the ruined eastern city of Bakhmut to deliver President Vladimir Putin what would be his only prize for a costly Russian winter offensive in time for Victory Day.
Moscow is preparing for Tuesday’s Victory Day parade, the most important day in the calendar for Russia under Putin, who evokes the 1945 Soviet triumph over Nazi Germany in trying to rally Russians behind his invasion of Ukraine.
In a new break with Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky marked Victory Day on Monday rather than Tuesday, announcing that decree a change in the date of the holiday to match the practice of Western allies.
“Recalling the heroism of millions of Ukrainians in that war against Nazism, we see the same heroism in the actions of our soldiers today,” said Zelensky, who addressed the nation from a hilltop overlooking Kyiv.
Russia ‘brings back old evil.’
“Just as evil rushed into our towns and villages then, so it does now. As it killed our people then, so it does now,” he said. “And all the old evil that modern Russia is bringing back will be defeated, just as Nazism was defeated.”
The German army’s surrender in 1945 took effect late at night on 8 May in Berlin, when it was already 9 May in Moscow, which became a Soviet holiday.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that by changing the date, Zelensky had betrayed the memory of Ukrainians who fought the Nazis.
“What is worse than an enemy? A traitor. That is Zelensky, the embodiment of Judas in the 21st century,” she said.
As part of the then-Soviet Union, Ukraine suffered higher per capita casualties than Russia in World War Two and was one of the heartlands of European Jewry wiped out in the Holocaust.
On the day of Russia’s parade, Zelensky will underscore Ukraine’s ambition to join the West by receiving European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, whose visit to the war zone the EU took the unusual step of announcing in advance.
Brussels marks 9 May as “Europe Day”, honouring a French declaration in 1950 that led to the body’s founding that became the EU.
Russia has cancelled or curtailed some huge military parades that commonly accompany Victory Day. Western countries say this is partly out of security concerns, partly for fear of publicising Russia’s heavy casualties in Ukraine, and partly because Moscow has lost so much military hardware in its largely fruitless, grinding winter offensive.
Ukraine, which last year drove Russian forces back from the ramparts of the capital and recovered substantial territory, has maintained a defensive posture for the past six month but says its counteroffensive will begin soon.