Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

On May 9 — known as Victory Day in Russia — President Vladimir Putin will need to make a bombastic and very public display to suggest he is winning the war in Ukraine.

The date marks the day Nazi Germany surrendered to Soviet forces (the day after its capitulation to the Western allies, which is why the UK, US and their allies commemorate victory on May 8).

Moscow initially partnered with Nazi Berlin to divide eastern Europe between the two totalitarian regimes. But after that partnership ended with the German invasion of the USSR in 1941, the Soviet human contribution to defeating Germany — backed by enormous shipments of food aid and military equipment from the UK, US and Canada — was critical.

The USSR lost tens of millions of soldiers and civilians in the course of the Second World War — many of them in the then-Soviet republics of Ukraine and Belarus.

Over the entirety of his regime, Soviet-leader Joseph Stalin killed more people both in his own country and in occupied territories than Adolf Hitler. But these days it is a crime in Russia to recall this history, or to compare the atrocities committed by the Soviet Union with those of Nazi Germany. Fresh flowers are still placed on Stalin’s grave in Red Square — where the May 9 victory parade is held.

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