“We defeated the Nazis, we will defeat the Russians”: In Ukraine, the victory of 1945 is not the same anymore

Devastated by the Russian invasion, Ukraine this year discreetly celebrates the anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, but it is its victory over Moscow that it hopes for, drawing a parallel between the brutality of the Nazis and the Russian troops. on its territory.

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Unlike Russia, this former Soviet republic, which estimates its civilian and military losses during the Second World War (1939-1945) at more than eight million people, had for years focused on commemorating the victims instead of celebrating.

But this year, Ukrainians are dreaming of another victory over Moscow, which has set their country on fire since the invasion on February 24.

“After decades of peace, Russia has brought back the horrors of the massacres of civilians to Europe,” Ukraine’s presidential government adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said in written comments to AFP. But “Ukraine and Europe will have a new date for a real victory over Russian expansionism, chauvinism and Nazism.”

“It is not for tomorrow and we will have to pay a lot for it,” he added, as the Russian army, faced with Ukrainian resistance, left the north of the country, but fierce fighting continued in the east and south. .

The Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance has come up with a new slogan for this year. “We defeated the Nazis, we will defeat the Russians,” reads the banner, which also features portraits of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler (1933-1945) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

If the program of commemorations has not yet been revealed, “there will be no meeting” in Kiev, under martial law and Russian strikes, warned Friday mayor Vitaly Klitschko.


UKRAINE-RUSSIA CONFLICT

The feast of May 9, very symbolic in Russia, is every year the occasion of a great military parade in Moscow, in Red Square, a very patriotic gathering increasingly instrumentalized by the power to forge the nation through the “achievement of the Russian people”.

Russia is cynically using the memory and conditions of World War II, Ukraine’s defense ministry accused Sunday, with Moscow saying the invasion of Ukraine aims to “denazify” the country.

Kiev began to break away from Soviet-style celebrations about 15 years ago, when the term “Great Patriotic War,” still used in Moscow, gave way to “World War II” in official speeches and history books.

This trend was reinforced by the “de-Sovietization” launched by Kiev after the annexation, in 2014, by Moscow of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula (south), followed by a war in the east against the separatists led by the Kremlin. supported.

Since 2015, Ukrainians have used the poppy as an official emblem for commemorations, as have some Anglo-Saxon countries.

The orange-black Saint George’s ribbon used by Russians and separatists as a “symbol of Russian aggression” in Ukraine has been banned since 2017 and can be punished with a fine of up to €160 or even a 15-day jail term.


UKRAINE-RUSSIA CONFLICT

Finally, since 2015, the commemorations take place not only on May 9, as in the former USSR and in Russia, but also on May 8, called “Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation”, in connection with the European tradition.

Although May 9 remained symbolically important for 80% of Ukrainians until recently, the Russian invasion led to a drop in this figure to 34%, according to a poll published in late April by the Ukrainian Rating Institute, which showed a “key shift in historical memory”.

More than a third of Ukrainians now see it as a “relic of the past” and nearly a quarter an ordinary day, according to the same source. Some politicians are even calling for all celebrations to be stopped on May 9.

For Volodymyr Kostiouk, 62, son of a former Soviet POW who was interned in a Nazi concentration camp, this day always had a personal dimension that has disappeared today.

Russians and Ukrainians ‘fought together against the Nazis, it was our joint victory. Today the Russians are killing and torturing us and this common history no longer exists,” said the bank employee.

“What party is this? Did we win then just for them to destroy us now? protests this man, who left Kiev for the west of the country, fleeing the Russian bombs.

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