Both sides strengthen their positions on the anniversary of the Nazi defeat in Europe

PARIS – On a day of commemoration of the end of World War II in Europe, the war in Ukraine was marked on Sunday with attitudes and signals, as each side stepped up their rhetoric and determination.

The leaders of the richest democracies in the world have vowed to end their dependence on Russian energy and to ensure that Russia does not triumph in its “unprovoked, unjustifiable and illegal aggression”, while President Vladimir V. Putin pursued the his indiscriminate bombardment of eastern Ukraine and orchestrated the celebrations for Russia on a public holiday on Victory Day.

A statement from the Group of 7 Great Industrialized Nations states that on a day when Europe remembered the devastation of World War II and its millions of victims, including those of the Soviet Union, Putin’s actions “bring shame to Russia and to the historical sacrifices of its people “.

The leaders, signaling to Putin that their unremitting support for Ukraine would only grow, said: “We remain united in our determination that President Putin must not win his war against Ukraine.” The memory of all those who fought for freedom in World War II, the statement said, obliged them “to continue fighting for it today”.

The tone was firm, without mentioning any potential diplomacy or ceasefire.

In Moscow, as fighter planes whizzed through the sky and nuclear weapons were put on display in preparation for Victory Day, Putin appeared to signal to Western leaders that he was determined to double the war until he was able to conjure something that could be claimed as victory.

There was new evidence of this on Sunday, when rescuers gathered in the rubble of Bilohorivka, a village in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine where a Russian bomb flattened a school building the day before, killing people. who took refuge there, local authorities said.

“Most likely, all 60 people left under the rubble are now dead,” the governor said. Serhiy Haidai wrote about the Telegram messaging app, but it wasn’t clear how many people actually were in the school and that toll could turn out to be inflated. If confirmed, it would be one of the deadliest Russian attacks since the war began in February.

Despite World War II commemorations in most of Europe on Sunday and in Russia on Monday, a painful reminder of the tens of millions of people killed, there was no indication that the war in Ukraine was nearing an end. If anything, all the signals pointed in the opposite direction. Russian attacks on Ukrainian towns and villages have met with a crescendo of Western rhetoric, accompanied by the constant danger of escalation.

Putin, whose steady militarization of Russian society in recent years has turned the May 9 celebration of the Soviet defeat of the Nazis into an annual apotheosis of the power of a recovering nation, should represent a war of repeated setbacks in Ukraine as a success is a drive to “de-Nazify” a neighboring nation whose very existence he denies.

His long-awaited speech could go further, perhaps signaling that whatever conquests in Ukraine have taken place thus far will become permanent through annexation. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and began fomenting military conflict in the eastern Donbas region.

In Mariupol, the Ukrainian port city now in ruins after the prolonged Russian assault, and a place Putin wants to show as proof of his “victory”, the city’s last Ukrainian defenders have vowed to keep fighting. Russian forces were clearing the streets on Sunday in preparation for a celebratory parade on Monday.

Across eastern Ukraine, Russia seemed intent on making its occupation permanent through Russian flags, Russian-language signs, and the introduction of the ruble. The group of 7 leaders said that any attempt to “replace the democratically elected local Ukrainian authorities with illegitimate ones” would not be recognized.

Visits to the region of the first lady, Jill Biden, who traveled through western Ukraine to meet the Ukrainian first lady, Olena Zelenskaon an unannounced visit to Uzhhorod, and by Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, who unexpectedly appeared in a war-torn suburb of Kiev, they clearly intended to bring home a message of unwavering Western commitment.

Senior US diplomats returned to the US embassy in Kiev for the first time since the war began.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released a black and white video speech on Sunday on the occasion of the Allied victory in 1945. Standing in front of a destroyed apartment building in a suburb of Kiev, badly hit by Russian troops before their withdrawal from the surrounding region. to the capital, he said: “We give our respect to all those who defended the planet against Nazism during the Second World War.”

Mr. Putin portrayed Mr. Zelensky, who is Jewish, as the leader of a nation that threatens Russia with a new Nazism. His purpose was to instill the spirit of the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is known in Russia, among Russian troops, but with little apparent result.

In the vast Azovstal steel plant, the last remaining part of Mariupol not under Russian control, Ukrainian troops have again rejected Russian deadlines for surrender. In a virtual press conference, Lieutenant Illya Samoilenko, an officer of a Ukrainian National Guard battalion known as the Azov Regiment, said: “We are practically dead men. Most of us know that. That’s why we fight “.

the chap. Sviatoslav Palamar, a deputy commander of the regiment, said: “We don’t have much time, we are under constant bombardment”, with attacks by Russian tanks, artillery, airplanes and snipers.

The remaining civilians in the steel plant were evacuated on Saturday. Local officials estimate the death toll in the city at over 20,000.

If the United States and its allies have refused to engage military forces for fear of waging World War III, they have moved to support Ukraine in every other way, their resolve has increased and their actions have expanded with every Russian atrocity.

The Group of 7 statement included a series of economic, military and judicial measures, with the apparent goal of bringing the Russian economy to its knees and increasing pressure on Putin to withdraw from a war of choice that has turned him into a pariah and threatens much of his country’s progress over the past two decades.

“We are committed to gradually eliminating our dependence on Russian energy, including by phasing out or banning the import of Russian oil,” the statement said. He added, without being specific, that this would be done in “a timely and orderly manner”. Alternative sources would be found, they added, to ensure “affordable prices for consumers”.

It was unclear how this commitment from the Group of 7 went beyond existing commitments, if at all.

The 27-nation European Union has already pledged to completely ban the import of all Russian oil, with most countries phasing out Russian crude oil within six months and refined oil by the end of the year. The European Union is too dependent on Russian gas to consider banning it in the short term.

The war has already driven up gasoline prices across much of Europe in a generally inflationary climate. If the war drags on for a long time, support for the West’s commitment to Ukraine is likely to falter among consumers who pay the cost at the pump or in bills.

The remotely assembled Group of 7 statement said the seven nations – the United States, France, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Canada and Italy – have already provided or pledged $ 24 billion to Ukraine for 2022. “In the coming weeks, we will strengthen our short-term collective financial support,” they said.

“We will continue to act against Russian banks linked to the global economy and fundamental to the Russian financial system,” they added. More generally, “they would take measures to prohibit or otherwise prevent the provision of key services on which Russia depends.”

Military and defense assistance would continue to ensure that “Ukraine can defend itself now and deter future acts of aggression”.

The leaders said they “will spare no effort to hold President Putin” and his accomplices “accountable for their actions in accordance with international law.”

The allegations of illegality made against Putin for the invasion of a sovereign country will surely anger the Russian president. The NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999 during the Kosovo War, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and Western support for Kosovo’s independence in 2008 gave him a healthy distrust of American calls for the UN Charter and of international law.

War raged in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, with a Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, which gained ground in the northeast. However, the Ukrainian army withdrew from the city of Popasna after two months of bitter fighting.

In general, the planned Russian offensive in the east of the country, like the rest of Putin’s war, went less well than expected. Mr. Putin’s general objective, at least for the moment, appears to be to connect Crimea through Mariupol to other occupied areas in eastern Ukraine and to Russia itself, forming a cohesive and strategic strip of territory.

William J. Burns, CIA director and former US ambassador to Russia, said the current phase of the war was at least as dangerous as Russia’s initial attempt to attack the capital and overthrow the Ukrainian government.

Speaking in Washington on Saturday, he said Putin was “in a state of mind that he thinks he can’t afford to lose” and was convinced that “doubling down will still allow him to make progress.”

In the 77 years since the end of World War II, the possibility of a broad conflagration in Europe has rarely, if ever, appeared more plausible.

The report was provided by Emma Bubola in London; Edward Medina in New York; Marco Santora in Krakow, Poland; Maria Varenikova in Kiev, Ukraine; Katie Rogers in Uzhhorod, Ukraine; Julian E Barnes Other Michael Crowley in Washington; Other Cassandra Vinograd in London.