Putin's Big Speech Ignores the Obvious

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday spoke in Volgograd on the anniversary of a World War II event that's deeply symbolic to his country. He touched on several topics during his speech, but his remarks were also notable for what was left out.

While Putin promised victory in Ukraine, he made no mention of reports that he could soon enlist more troops for a new large offensive, nor did he reference the Russian missiles that rained down on the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk mere hours before he spoke.

Also omitted from the speech was the heavy death toll Russia's military has suffered in Ukraine, which surpassed 100,000 before the end of 2022, as well as the numerous setbacks Putin's military has experienced on the battlefield.

Volgograd was known as Stalingrad, when in 1943 the Soviet army claimed a key victory over Nazi Germany. The World War II fight has since become a major symbol of Russian heroism.

Vladimir Putin in Volgograd
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a ceremony commemorating the heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad on February 2, 2023, in Volgograd, Russia. In inset, a destroyed Russian tank by the side of the road on December 15, 2022, in Kupiansk, Ukraine. Putin on Thursday used the memory of the Battle of Stalingrad as a rallying cry for his troops in Ukraine. Photos by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

On Thursday's 80th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, Putin used the occasion to once again falsely claim that neo-Nazis are a central power in Ukraine.

"Unfortunately we see that the ideology of Nazism in its modern form and manifestation again directly threatens the security of our country," Putin said, according to Reuters.

Putin has frequently made claims about Nazism in Ukraine. Recently, he spoke during a January meeting of "crimes against civilians" committed by Neo-Nazis "who have gained ground and are running the show in Ukraine."

On Wednesday, Putin talked during a meeting about rebuilding houses in Russia's border regions that were "damaged or destroyed due to shelling by neo-Nazi formations."

George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government professor Mark N. Katz told Newsweek that Putin's Stalingrad speech and Nazi comments "are aimed mainly at persuading the Russian domestic audience that the current war in Ukraine war is similar to the World II."

"The Nazis did well at first, but the Soviets were able to push them back. Although he didn't actually admit that the Western-backed Ukrainian 'Nazis' did well against the Russians recently, Putin promises that Russia will eventually prevail this time too," Katz said.

The professor added, "If the Russian public does not buy this message, it's not just Putin's war against Ukraine that will be endangered, but his own ability to continue ruling Russia."

Putin's claim about neo-Nazis controlling Ukraine was not the only false statement contained in his Volgograd speech, according to Reuters.

"Again and again we have to repel the aggression of the collective West," he said, implying the war is a response to the West when in reality he invaded Ukraine last February 24.

Elsewhere, the Russian president's oration referenced Germany's recent decision to supply Zelensky with battle tanks.

"It's incredible, but it's a fact: We are again being threatened with German Leopard tanks with crosses on them," Putin said.

He also issued a threat to nations supporting Ukraine.

"Those who expect to win a victory against Russia on the battlefield don't understand that modern-day war with Russia will turn out totally differently for them," he said.

"We aren't sending our tanks to their borders. But we have the means to respond, and it won't end with the use of armor," Putin added in a comment that some observers have interpreted as an allusion to Russia's nuclear weapons arsenal. "Everyone must understand this."

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.