Vladimir Putin is ‘mirroring’ Nazis, says Ben Wallace

Vladimir Putin has referred to the Ukrainians as 'Nazi filth', but Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, will say that it is the Russian president who is 'mirroring' fascism - Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin pool photo via AP
Vladimir Putin has referred to the Ukrainians as ‘Nazi filth’, but Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, will say that it is the Russian president who is ‘mirroring’ fascism – Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin pool photo via AP

Vladimir Putin is “mirroring” the fascism of Nazi Germany, Ben Wallace will say on Monday – as the Russian president holds a massive military parade to galvanise his war effort.

In a major speech, the Defence Secretary will accuse Putin of “hijacking history” and insulting the memory of fallen Soviet forces in the annual Victory Day parade that marks the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s army.

“Through their invasion of Ukraine, Putin, his inner circle and generals are now mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 70 years ago, repeating the errors of last century’s totalitarian regimes,” Mr Wallace will say.

Speaking at the National Army Museum, the Defence Secretary will also accuse senior officers in the army of such incompetence they should be court-martialled.

“Let’s call out the absurdity of Russian generals – resplendent in their manicured parade uniforms and weighed down by their many medals – for being utterly complicit in Putin’s hijacking of their forebears’ proud history of defending against a ruthless invasion; of repelling fascism; of sacrificing themselves for a higher purpose,” Mr Wallace will say.

He will also add that the response to the military failures on the ground in Ukraine has been a “disgraceful display of self-preservation, doubling-down on failure, anger, dishonesty and scapegoating”.

Mr Wallace will add: “All professional soldiers should be appalled at the behaviour of the Russian army.

“Not only are they engaged in an illegal invasion and war crimes, but their top brass have failed their own rank and file to the extent they should be court-martialled.”

The speech will be given as Moscow throws a lavish military parade in a show of strength against Ukraine and Nato, including a display of Putin’s so-called “doomsday” jet.

The aircraft is designed to protect the Russian president and allow him to rule from the skies in the event of a nuclear attack. It is also capable of issuing its own nuclear strike order.

The so-called 'doomsday' plane during a rehearsal for a flypast as part of the Victory Day parade - Reuters/Tatyana Makeyeva
The so-called ‘doomsday’ plane during a rehearsal for a flypast as part of the Victory Day parade – Reuters/Tatyana Makeyeva

It is understood that fewer vehicles and other military hardware, such as Russian tanks and rocket systems, will feature in this year’s parade, as so many have been destroyed by Ukrainian defenders.

After the march, about one million Russians are expected to parade through Moscow in the so-called “Immortal Regiment”, holding pictures of family members who have died in conflict.

“Shame on those who seek to use the suffering of ordinary Russians as a launchpad for their own imperial ambitions,” Mr Wallace will say. “They are the ones who truly insult the memory of the Immortal Regiment.”

Western officials say Putin could use his speech on Victory Day to expand the offensive in Ukraine and refer to it for the first time as a “war”, instead of the widely-ridiculed “special military operation”.

He may also announce “referendums” or the annexation of the eastern Donbas region, where Ukrainians have been fighting pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

Russia’s invasion force has sustained heavy losses – with around 22,000 soldiers killed in the campaign so far, according to Ukrainian estimates. It has lost around a third of the equipment it had when the invasion started on February 24, equating to about 16 per cent of Russia’s entire land forces.

Moscow is desperate for additional manpower, raising the prospect that Putin may on Monday announce a mass-mobilisation of conscripts.

On Sunday, Putin sought to compare the illegal invasion of Ukraine to Russia’s triumph in the Second World War, as he referred to Ukrainians as “Nazi filth”.

He said: “Today, our soldiers, as their ancestors, are fighting side by side to liberate their native land from the Nazi filth with the confidence that, as in 1945, victory will be ours.”

It came as the G7 agreed on fresh sanctions for Russian financial firms, in addition to banning or phasing out Russian oil imports to cripple the country’s economy.

Jill Biden, seen here with Olena Zelenska, was among the visitors to Ukraine at the weekend - Susan Walsh/AFP via Getty Images
Jill Biden, seen here with Olena Zelenska, was among the visitors to Ukraine at the weekend – Susan Walsh/AFP via Getty Images

A White House official said on Sunday: “If thousands of body bags are coming home, if debit cards aren’t working, if shelves aren’t stocked the way they used to … if Russia is eventually in default and the country is bankrupt, the question we are putting to him is, is that the endgame Putin is looking for?”

After speaking with G7 leaders, Boris Johnson warned that “the world must go further and faster to support Ukraine”. The Prime Minister said Kyiv’s forces need fresh kit that would allow them “to not just hold ground in Ukraine, but recapture it”.

Several Western leaders travelled to the Ukraine over the weekend, including Justin Trudeau, the Canadian president, and Jill Biden, the US First Lady. Bono and the Edge, from U2, also visited Kyiv, where they performed a gig in a subway station.

Ms Biden met Olena Zelenska, her Ukrainian counterpart, at a school sheltering civilians – including children displaced by the conflict – near Ukraine’s border with Slovakia.”I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” the First Lady told reporters.

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, meanwhile said that a Russian attack on a school in eastern Ukraine, which is feared to have killed 60 people, amounted to a “war crime”.

Rescuers were desperately searching through the rubble of the school in the village of Bilohorivka on Sunday, where 90 people had been sheltering after the destruction of their homes. Around 30 were thought to have left before the missile hit.

Germany faced yet more criticism from Ukrainian officials, after Berliners were banned from displaying Ukrainian flags near Second World War memorials. Berlin police chiefs said they issued the ban – which also includes Russian flags – to ensure respect for the victims of the 1939 to 1945 conflict.

But Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, said it was “deeply false” to treat Russian and Ukrainian flags as equal symbols. “Taking a Ukrainian flag away from peaceful protestors is an attack on everyone who now defends Europe and Germany from Russian aggression with this flag in hands,” he said.

In the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which is under siege by Russian forces, Ukrainian soldiers said they felt let down by the West for nor providing enough weapons. It is feared that the last holdout for Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol, the Azovstal steel plant, will soon fall to Russian invaders.

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