Vladimir Putin’s regime is “mirroring” the actions of the Nazis, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said as the Russian leader staged a military parade to celebrate victory over Hitler’s fascists.
Speaking at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, south-west London, Mr Wallace said Mr Putin and his inner circle should share the same fate as the Nazis, who ended up defeated and facing the Nuremberg trials for their atrocities.
In Moscow, Mr Putin watched the Victory Day parade of military hardware, marking the defeat of the Nazis in 1945 and used his speech to compare the "special military operation" in Ukraine to the Red Army's fight against the Nazis.
But Mr Wallace said Mr Putin must not be allowed to mythologise the official national history as one simply of "smashing Nazism", adding that today in Moscow should be a day of "reflection" and a day to commemorate the suffering.
“Through their invasion of Ukraine, Putin, his inner circle and generals are now mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 70 years ago, repeating the errors of last century’s totalitarian regimes.”
He added: “Their fate must also, surely, eventually be the same.”
Russia’s sacrifices in the past should not be forgotten, “but nor must the lessons about what lies in store for the perpetrators of such unprovoked brutality”.
In a message to Mr Putin, Mr Wallace said: “In going to such extremes to justify this war of choice he and his generals are now ripping up both Russia’s past and its future.
“Their unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine, attacks against innocent citizens and their homes, and the widespread atrocities – including deliberately against women and children – corrupts the memory of past sacrifices and Russia’s once-proud global reputation.”
The defence secretary’s speech also directly criticised the behaviour of Russian commanders for war crimes and their incompetence in a campaign which has failed to secure the gains expected by Mr Putin.
The generals in their “manicured parade uniforms” are “utterly complicit in Putin’s hijacking of their forebears’ proud history” of resisting fascism.
“All professional soldiers should be appalled at the behaviour of the Russian army,” Mr Wallace said.
“Not only are they engaged in an illegal invasion and war crimes, but their top brass have failed their own rank and file to the extent they should be court-martialled.”
He said rank and file soldiers in the Russian army “will not get a voice and their mothers and sisters will be shamed into silence”.
During his Victory Day speech in Red Square, Putin accused NATO of plotting to attack Russia in an attempt to justify his invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking after his speech, Mr Wallace dismissed Mr Putin's "fairytale claims" insisting NATO was not preparing to attack Russia.
“I think he is believing what he wants to believe – a slight shine of desperation. But let me put on the record categorically: NATO, Britain, eastern Europe is not planning to invade Russia and never has done," Mr Wallace said.
Mr Wallace’s speech comes after foreign secretary Liz Truss accused Russia of war crimes over the bombing of a school in eastern Ukraine where civilians were sheltering.
Up to 60 are feared dead after the school in Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine was bombed and caught fire on Saturday.
The foreign secretary said she was “horrified” and added that Mr Putin’s regime would be held to account.
Around 90 people were thought to have been sheltering at the school, but just 30 have been rescued.
Ms Truss tweeted: “Horrified by Russia’s latest attack on a school in Luhansk, resulting in the deaths of innocent people sheltering from Russian bombardment.”
She said the deliberate targeting of civilians and infrastructure “amounts to war crimes” and “we will ensure Putin’s regime is held accountable”.
On Sunday, G7 leaders including Boris Johnson and Joe Biden held talks with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Mr Johnson told his counterparts “the world must go further and faster to support Ukraine” against the Kremlin’s invading forces.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The prime minister said there was a savage irony that the leaders had gathered to discuss Putin’s barbaric invasion on a day when they should be remembering the sacrifice of Russian soldiers defeating fascism in the Second World War.
“He agreed with G7 leaders that the world must intensify economic pressure on Putin in any way possible, and said the West must not allow the war to turn into a stalemate that only magnified suffering.
“Ukraine needed to receive military equipment that allowed them to not just hold ground in Ukraine, but recapture it, the Prime Minister told the leaders.”
The G7 agreed more needed to be done to support Ukraine’s agricultural exports, with the war impacting food supplies around the world.
Mr Johnson also urged G7 countries to intensify diplomatic lobbying of countries which were failing to apply pressure on Moscow, “especially as it was clear grossly unjustifiable human rights abuses and war crimes were being committed”, the spokeswoman added.
US officials claimed two major Russian tank factories had ground to a halt because of the impact of economic sanctions.
The UK has pledged an extra £1.3 billion in military support to Ukraine, in a dramatic escalation of assistance for Mr Zelensky’s forces as they fight the Russian invasion.
It is the highest rate of UK military spending on a conflict since the height of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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