Ukraine round-up: Putin defends invasion and Ukraine told long wait to join EU

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Image source, Reuters

As fierce fighting continued in Ukraine's east and Mariupol's last defenders held out for another day in the city's massive steel plant, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual Victory Day speech on Monday.

Flanked by his military top brass in Moscow's iconic Red Square, he compared the invasion of Ukraine to the Soviet Union's defeat of Germany in World War Two - the theme of the day's celebrations.

"You are fighting for the Motherland, for its future, so that no one forgets the lessons of World War Two," he said to thousands of soldiers assembled before their annual victory day parade.

Mr Putin also described Ukrainians as fascists and repeated his false claim that Kyiv is overrun by neo-Nazis.

But if you were looking for any clues of Mr Putin's broader strategy, our Russia Editor Steve Rosenberg suggests you won't find them in his speech today.

The comments were delivered 75 days on since the president first ordered the invasion to go ahead, with Russia making few territorial advances in recent weeks.

Today there was fierce fighting in Ukrainian towns in the eastern Luhansk region, where yesterday the town of Popasna fell to Russian forces after weeks of fighting.

Putin accused of hijacking Soviet history

Image source, PA Media

Responding to Mr Putin's Victory Day speech, a UK minister has said you cannot compare Russia's invasion of Ukraine with its defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two.

If anything Vladimir Putin's Russia is "mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago, repeating the errors of last century's totalitarian regimes," Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.

And it is not just the Russian leader who must be held to account, Mr Wallace added. His inner circle and top military generals also at today's Victory Day event are "utterly complicit in Putin's hijacking of their forebears' proud history."

Ukraine's long wait to join the EU

Image source, Reuters

It will take years if not decades for Ukraine to be accepted as a member of the European Union, French President Emmanuel Macron has said.

"That is the truth, unless we decide to lower the standards for accession and rethink the unity of our Europe."

Instead of allowing countries to join the bloc immediately, the EU should consider the possibility of creating a "parallel European community" that countries like Ukraine could join and still benefit from Europe's security architecture.

Polish protest targets Moscow ambassador

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Watch: The moment red liquid is thrown over Russia's ambassador to Poland at a WWII cemetery

Pro-Ukraine activists protesting the war sprayed Russia's ambassador to Poland with red liquid while he was visiting a Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw.

The protesters told local media that the liquid symbolised the Ukrainian blood shed since the invasion began.

Russia's foreign ministry has lodged a formal complaint and wants the Polish government to re-organise a new wreath laying ceremony with better protection for its diplomats.

Dissent and division in one town

Image caption,
Svetlana Kravchenko says karma will catch up with anyone in Bakhmut who supported the Russian offensive

On the international stage Ukraine's leadership has displayed a united resolve against the Russian invasion that appears robust.

But among residents of one town in the eastern Donbas not far from some of the most intense fighting, there is division and dissent beneath the surface.

Capture by Russian forces would "make no difference to me," an elderly Bakhmut resident tells the BBC's Andrew Harding.

Others including Sveltana disagree: "Karma will quickly catch up with them," she says of her neighbours who've been supporting Russia.

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