Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his speech at the annual May 9 display of military force in Moscow on the anniversary of the defeat of Germany in the Second World War. He didn’t admit the defeats that Russian forces have suffered from the courageous resistance mounted by the Ukrainian people, determined to defend their country’s independence.
Putin did claim that Moscow’s invasion was a just defensive operation, while calling his troops’ occupation of the Donbas-Luhansk region an advance on Russian soil. He repeated the slander that his regime’s war is aimed at toppling a “neo-Nazi” government in Kyiv.
Putin’s “regime is ruthlessly seeking to claw back, under Moscow’s hegemony, those nations incarcerated in the czarist prison house of nations, regenerating the Russian empire today with Putin as its czar,” explains Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes, in a statement on behalf of the party’s National Committee. Putin’s goal is to crush Ukraine’s existence and impose Moscow’s rule.
Despite the fierce repression being meted out by Putin’s regime, hoping to crush all evidence of opposition to his war by Russian working people, opponents of the invasion found ways to get their voices heard.
Hackers managed to display “You have blood on your hands!” and other anti-war slogans on every state and cable TV channel, as well as online publications. Overnight before the parade in Volgograd, a large mural appeared showing coffins with the slogan “Our Zinc!” referring to the metal used as box liners for Russian soldiers’ corpses. These returning coffins helped spur deep opposition to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan years earlier.
In St. Petersburg, a man was arrested for carrying a photograph of an elderly Holocaust survivor killed during the Russian bombardment. In the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, Vladimir Saltevsky was detained for carrying a banner at the parade there saying, “We’re ashamed of you, grandchildren. We fought for peace, but you chose war.”
Ukrainian troops push back
Putin’s invading forces have sustained heavy casualties for two and a half months. After getting bogged down and then retreating from the Kyiv and Sumy regions, the Kremlin is trying to use its greater numbers, missile superiority and greater firepower to consolidate territory it occupies in the east and south.
Ukrainian troops have pushed back Moscow’s forces north of Kharkiv, easing the bombardment of the country’s second-largest city. In the first week of May, Russian units destroyed several bridges as they retreated, indicating they fear further attacks.
In the Kharkiv suburb of Saltivka, 20 miles from the Russian border, most people speak Russian.
“Russians have supposedly liberated us — from our home, from a happy life, from a job and just being alive, too,” Olha Khorosho, sheltering in a basement there, told the Washington Post.
The southern port city of Mariupol has been bombed relentlessly by Moscow’s forces. Some 20,000 civilians were killed and many more fled. “The occupiers celebrate Victory Day on the bones of Mariupol,” the City Council stated May 9. Most remaining civilians were finally evacuated from bunkers in the giant Azovstal steelworks the previous day. Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters are still holding out there, inflicting heavy losses on the invading forces trying to storm the site.
In the first two months of Moscow’s occupation of Kherson, people in the southern city held protests. But as Russian forces detained more and more of them for interrogation, torturing some and deporting others to Russia, demonstrations declined.
Nonetheless, residents display Ukrainian yellow and blue colors or daub anti-occupation messages around the city. Some teachers refuse to instruct pupils in the Russian curriculum Moscow has tried to impose. Most people still tune in to Ukrainian radio and TV, despite the Russian government’s attempts at censorship.
Ivan Antypenko, a journalist who fled the city, said that despite repression “people know they live in Ukraine.”
At the same time as the fighting is more contained in the east and south of Ukraine, Russian forces continue murderous bombing across the country, hitting targets and civilians as far west as Lviv. Their goal is to slow down new weaponry from reaching Ukrainian fighters.
‘Defend Ukrainian independence’
“The Socialist Workers Party is for the victory of the Ukrainian independence struggle and the defeat and withdrawal of Moscow’s forces from all of the country,” Osborne Hart, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, said May 9. “The SWP also calls for the withdrawal of all U.S. armed forces, including nuclear weapons, from Europe, all of Europe!”
The U.S. rulers and allied governments are acting to protect the rival interests of their own capitalist classes. They are organizing rearmament programs and boosting troop numbers in preparation for future conflicts. They see the war and the sanctions they impose as an opportunity to deal blows to their Russian rival, as well as prepare for conflicts with other rivals.
Not all European capitalists see challenging Moscow’s invasion as the best course to defend their interests. This is especially so in Germany, which has been reliant on Russian energy sources for decades.
Herbert Diess, CEO of the German auto giant Volkswagen, urged the European Union May 9 to change course, and press Ukraine officials to reach a humbling settlement with Moscow instead. Their interest in preventing a slump in the world capitalist economy that would weaken them should come first, he said.