Vladimir Putin lays flowers on WW2 memorial in Red Square
On Monday, as Russia marked its annual celebration of Victory Day, Vladimir Putin attempted to defend his invasion of Ukraine by claiming that the West was planning an invasion of its own. He said that Western nations were supplying Ukraine with arms in order to invade Crimea, the peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. He was speaking ahead of a massive parade of troops, tanks and military hardware in Moscow, where crowds had turned out to celebrate Russia’s victory anniversary against Nazi Germany in World War 2.
He provided no evidence for his claims, but used the speech to attack NATO and Ukraine’s allies, and justify what he has coined a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Evoking similar rhetoric that marked the former Soviet Union’s defeat of Adolf Hitler, Putin urged the Russian army towards victory in Ukraine, saying there was a duty to remember those who defeated Nazism.
He has largely avoided any direct criticism from high-profile politicians within the Kremlin, with Express.co.uk previously being told that he is surrounded by “yes men”.
Today, Russia is effectively sealed off from the rest of the world.
But before his full-scale attack on Ukraine, Putin would often travel abroad to participate in singing agreements or celebrating new joint ventures, which were often accompanied by speeches and press conferences.
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Vladimir Putin: He once had a tense exchange with a Russian journalist in Italy
Victory Day: Putin pictured at Russia’s Victory Day parade in Moscow
One of these came in 2008 while he was visiting then-newly-elected Italian president Silvio Berlusconi.
At the time, reports published in Russian newspapers suggested he had secretly divorced his then-wife, Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Ocheretnaya, and was planning on marrying again.
The bride was alleged to be then-24-year-old Alina Kabayeva, an Olympic gold medallist for rhythmic gymnastics.
At the press conference, a Russian journalist asked Putin again about the reports, to which he replied: “In what you said, there is not a single word of truth. Nobody should ever interfere in others’ private lives.”
WW2: He linked Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Soviet Union’s efforts against Nazi Germany
He added: “I am, of course, aware of the cliché that politicians live in glass houses.
“But even in these cases, there must be some limits.
“I always disliked people who go around with their erotic fantasies, sticking their snot-ridden noses into another person’s life.”
Mr Berlusconi, who was standing beside Putin, then jokingly pretended to shoot the Russian journalist who had asked the question.
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Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Ocheretnaya: The pair married in 1983 but divorced 30 years later in 2014
Shortly after the reports about the secret marriage, liberal newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent’s editor was forced to resign, according to Newsweek.
Evgeny Lebedev — the billionaire financier who owns the Evening Standard and The Independent and was passed into the House of Lords by Prime Minister Boris Johnson — initially promised to stand by his journalists.
However, after receiving a call from “a senior figure from the presidential administration”, Moskovsky Korrespondent never appeared again.
Meanwhile, new accusations have been levelled at Russia in Ukraine.
Reports suggest the country has been trying to house servicemen in abandoned homes in the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine.
According to the BBC, a Ukrainian intelligence update says Russian troops have been asking housing associations in two different districts for lists of empty properties.
Kherson: A rocket fired at the town of Mykolaiv from the nearby city of Kherson
Kherson is the only major city that Russia has captured since its invasion began on February 24.
The Ukrainian update hints that the Kremlin is attempting to tighten its grip on the city.
Reports of increasing checkpoints and patrol, and attempts to convince the local population to bow to the new regime.
Russia has tried to bring the rouble into circulation in Kherson, a currency that is struggling against the backdrop of global financial sanctions.
Reports also claim that the Kremlin is planning to hold a “referendum” that could see the city break away from Ukrainian control, much like the vote seen in Crimea that was not recognised on the international stage due to the presence of Russian forces.