LONDON (AFP, REUTERS) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals are mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago and their invasion of Ukraine dishonours its military past, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Monday (May 9).
In a speech that coincided with Russia's Victory Day parade commemorating the end of the World War II, Wallace said the Russian generals were as complicit as their president, and should face court martial.
"Through the invasion of Ukraine, Putin and his inner circle of generals are now mirroring fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago, repeating the errors of the last century's totalitarian regime," he said.
Wallace, himself a former army officer, was speaking as Putin addressed the massed ranks of service personnel on Red Square on the anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany, evoking the memory of Soviet heroism to urge his army towards victory in Ukraine.
Britain has been one of the most vocal supporters of Ukraine's efforts to resist what Putin calls a "special operation" to disarm its smaller neighbour and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say this a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression by Russia.
Referring to Russian generals, Wallace said: "For them and for Putin there can be no victory day, only dishonour and surely defeat in Ukraine."
Putin has justified Russia’s military actions by saying they are carrying out “denazification” of the neighbouring country.
In a speech to troops on Monday, Putin said they were “fighting for the ‘Motherland’” in Ukraine, due to an “unacceptable threat”, so “no one forgets the lessons of the Second World War”.
Wallace said he wanted to “call out the absurdity of Russian generals resplendent in their manicured parade uniforms, weighed down by the gold braid and glistening medals”.
“Their top brass have failed their own rank-and-file to the extent that they should face court martial,” he said.
He called the military “utterly complicit in Putin’s hijacking of their forebears’ proud history of... repelling fascism”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday spoke of his pride in Ukrainians who fought to defeat Nazism, saying he would not allow victory in World War II to be “appropriated” by Russians.
Wallace said the reality in Ukraine was that Putin’s forces are running out of Russia’s most sophisticated precision weaponry “fairly quickly”, while relying on Western-made components.
“The truth is that Russia’s General Staff are failing, and they know it,” he said.
He insisted “Putin must fail in Ukraine” and there was “still potential” for this to happen, while saying it should be up to Kyiv to define what it would accept as victory.