‘The evil has returned. Again’ Ukraine president Zelensky gives emotional address on VE Day

‘The evil has returned. Again’ Ukraine president Zelensky gives emotional address on VE Day

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has released a rousing video on the eve of Russia’s ‘Victory Day’ celebrations tomorrow, declaring that ‘no evil will avoid responsibility’ and proclaiming that Ukraine will emerge victorious from the war.

His declaration coincides with Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), when many European countries commemorate the unconditional surrender of Nazi forces on May 8, 1945, marking the Allied victory in WWII.

Russia meanwhile celebrates the victory of the former Soviet Union over Nazi Germany with a national holiday on May 9.

‘Every year on May 8, along with the entire civilised world, we honour those who defended the planet from Nazism in World War Two… But we have not made it even a century. Our ‘never again’ lasted only 77 years. Evil has been reborn,’ the President declared as he stood in front of a residential tower block building destroyed by Russian shelling.

‘Despite the beast’s new mask, [Ukraine and its allies] have recognised him. Because, unlike some, they understand what our ancestors fought for, and against.’

‘Our ancestors proved that no evil can avoid responsibility. It will not be able to hide in the bunker. There will be no stone left of it.

‘So we will overcome everything, and we know this for sure because our military and all our people are the descendants of those who overcame Nazism.

‘They will win again and there will be peace again.’

Zelensky’s defiant statements come as Russian forces launched more punishing attacks on the Azovstal steelworks, as Putin tries desperately to conquer the southern port of Mariupol in time for tomorrow’s Victory Day celebrations.

Ukrainian troops solidified their positions around the nation’s second-largest city of Kharkiv in preparation for an expected increase in Russian attacks, while residents in Mariupol were urged to heed air raid sirens.

‘These symbolic dates are to the Russian aggressor like red to a bull,’ Ukraine’s first deputy interior minister Yevhen Yenin said.

‘While the entire civilised world remembers the victims of terrible wars on these days, the Russian Federation wants parades and is preparing to dance over bones in Mariupol.’

Zelensky’s video was published as Ukraine’s Armed Forces engaged in bitter fighting along the eastern front amid Russian assaults in Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv.

Western military analysts this morning said a Ukrainian counter-offensive was advancing around Kharkiv, but added that Putin’s forces made minor gains in Luhansk, an area where Moscow-backed separatists have fought since 2014.

Kharkiv, which was the first Soviet capital in Ukraine, remained a key target of Russian shelling, the Ukrainian military said yesterday.

But the Ukrainian army today declared it had made progress around the hotly contested city, recapturing five villages and part of a sixth.

Against that backdrop, Ukrainian fighters are making a final stand to prevent a complete takeover of Mariupol.

Securing the strategically important Sea of Azov port that would give Moscow a land bridge to the Crimea Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine during a 2014 invasion.

It would also provide Putin with a victory to boast about during tomorrow’s Victory Day celebrations in Moscow.

The bombardment of the Azovstal steelworks – Ukraine’s last holdout – intensified in recent days despite a temporary ceasefire to allow civilians inside to escape.

Russia forces have used mortars, artillery, truck-mounted rocket systems, aerial bombardment and shelling from sea to target the facility and eradicate the small contingent of Ukrainian soldiers still defending the plant.

The Ukrainian government has called on international organisations to help evacuate the fighters, who have repeatedly refused to surrender despite enduring constant bombings and suffering many casualties.

But Putin’s troops have struggled to make significant gains elsewhere nearly two and a half months into a ruinous war that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 10 million people.

The Russian leader’s ‘special military operation’ has left the country in the grip of tough Western sanctions, and has raised fears of a wider confrontation with the West.

But Russia is now gearing up for lavish celebrations to mark its Victory Day tomorrow, as Saturday’s final dress rehearsal for the parade in Moscow saw nuclear missiles being wheeled through Red Square.

The intercontinental weapon, which weighs 49.6 tonnes, can travel up to 24,500km/hr and is capable of hitting targets up to 12,000km away – meaning it could strike London or New York within minutes.

The weapon of mass destruction was followed closely by several Iskander-M missile launchers, as men and women marched outside the Kremlin dressed in military garb, waving Russian flags and performing salutes.

Eight MiG-29 fighters also flew past in a ‘Z’ formation – the insignia used by Putin’s military as a symbol of its military action in Ukraine, which critics have likened to the swastika used by the Nazis.

The rehearsal unfolded as the Ukraine-based Centre for Defence Strategies said that 500 captured fighters supporting Ukraine could be ‘forced to go through Red Square for cameras’, according to The Times.

Three British fighters could be among the 500 after Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were captured by Russian forces in Mariupol last month as they fought alongside Ukrainian defenders.

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