Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the WW2 memorial in Red Square
On Monday, as Russia celebrated its annual Victory Day, Vladimir Putin attempted to defend his invasion of Ukraine by claiming the West was planning an invasion of its own. He said Western nations are supplying arms to Ukraine to invade Crimea, the peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. He was speaking before a massive parade of troops, tanks and military equipment in Moscow, as crowds had gathered to celebrate Russia’s anniversary of victory against Nazi Germany in World War II.
He offered no evidence to support his claims, instead using the speech to attack NATO and Ukraine allies and justify what he described as a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Putin invoked similar rhetoric that marked the defeat of Adolf Hitler by the former Soviet Union and urged the Russian army to victory in Ukraine.
He has largely avoided any direct criticism from high-profile politicians within the Kremlin, with Express.co.uk previously telling that he was surrounded by “yes-men”.
Today, Russia is practically isolated from the rest of the world.
But before his all-out attack on Ukraine, Putin often traveled abroad to sing along to deals or celebrate new joint ventures, often accompanied by speeches and press conferences.
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Vladimir Putin: He once had a tense exchange with a Russian journalist in Italy
Victory Day: Putin at the Russian Victory Day Parade in Moscow
One of these came in 2008 when he visited then-newly elected Italian President Silvio Berlusconi.
At the time, reports published in Russian newspapers suggested that he was secretly divorcing his then-wife Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Ocheretnaya and was planning to remarry.
The bride was reportedly then 24-year-old Alina Kabayeva, an Olympic gold medalist in rhythmic gymnastics.
At the press conference, a Russian journalist again asked Putin about the reports, to which he replied: “There is not a single word of truth in what you have said. No one should ever interfere in the private lives of others.”
WW2: He linked Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Soviet Union’s efforts against Nazi Germany
He added: “Of course I know the cliché that politicians live in glass houses.
“But even in these cases there must be limits.
“I’ve always disliked people who go around with their erotic fantasies and stick their snotty noses into other people’s lives.”
Mr Berlusconi, standing next to Putin, then jokingly pretended to shoot the Russian journalist who popped the question.
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Shortly after the reports of the secret wedding, the editor-in-chief of the liberal newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent was forced to resign, according to Newsweek.
Evgeny Lebedev – the billionaire financier who owns the Evening Standard and The Independent and was brought into the House of Lords by Prime Minister Boris Johnson – initially vowed to stand by his journalists.
However, after receiving a call from “a senior figure in the presidential administration,” the Moskovsky correspondent never appeared again.
In the meantime, new allegations against Russia have been raised in Ukraine.
The country has reportedly tried to house soldiers in abandoned houses in the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine.
According to the BBC, an update from Ukraine’s intelligence service said Russian troops have asked housing associations in two different districts for lists of vacant lots.
Kherson: A rocket fired from the nearby city of Kherson at the city of Mykolaiv
Kherson is the only major city that Russia has conquered since its invasion began on February 24.
The Ukrainian update suggests that the Kremlin is trying to tighten control over the city.
Reports of increasing checkpoints and patrols and attempts to persuade the local population to bow to the new regime.
Russia has attempted to circulate the ruble in Kherson, a currency struggling amid global financial sanctions.
Reports also claim that the Kremlin is planning a “referendum” that could result in the city breaking away from Ukrainian control, similar to the Crimea vote, which was not recognized on the international scene due to the presence of Russian forces.