Fresh wave of missiles hits Kyiv as Russia celebrates muted Victory Day parade

President Vladimir Putin has made this a war of survival for Ukraine, for Russia, and ultimately for himself, ITV News senior correspondent John Ray reports from Kyiv

Ukraine is facing an escalation in missile strikes from Vladimir Putin's forces, as Russia celebrates its annual Victory Day parade.

The Kremlin's forces launched 25 missiles on Monday night in a wave of attacks across Ukraine, the Ukrainian air force said, adding that its air defence system had successfully destroyed 23 of them.

The Ukrainian capital was one of the areas hit by the strikes, according to the Mayor of Kyiv.

Vitali Klitschko wrote on Telegram: "As a result of the night shelling of the capital, energy infrastructure facilities were damaged.

"There are emergency power outages in the city. Accordingly, there are de-energised heat supply facilities. The capital's water supply is carried out as usual."

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko stands in front of an apartment building damaged by a drone during a Russian overnight strike. Credit: AP

Victory Day is held in Russia every year, but this year's celebration was markedly stripped back. At least 21 Russian cities cancelled their May 9 military parades because of concerns the events could be targets for Ukrainian attacks.

During the flagship march on Red Square, Moscow, leaders of ex-Soviet nations stood beside President Putin as he made a speech.

In the speech, President Putin claimed that "a real war" has been unleashed against Russia - a reference to the war in Ukraine that the Kremlin portrays as being a proxy conflict with the West.

"Today civilization is once again at a decisive turning point," he said. "A real war has been unleashed against our Motherland."

Soldiers who had been fighting in Ukraine were present at the parade - President Putin welcomed them while accusing the West of "provoking conflicts... encouraging Russophobia and nationalism".

Russian soldiers march toward Red Square to attend a Victory Day military parade in Moscow. Credit: AP

He added that Ukrainian people have become hostages to the West's ambitions and insisted that the West's "untamed ambitions, arrogance and impunity" are to blame for the conflict.

The Russian president concluded the speech by saying: "To Russia! To our brave armed forces! To Victory!"

The holiday marks the 78th anniversary of Germany's capitulation in World War II after a relentless Red Army offensive pushed German forces from Stalingrad, deep inside Russia, all the way to Berlin. The Soviet Union lost at least 20 million people in the war.

Some 8,000 troops took part in the parade in Moscow's Red Square on Tuesday - the lowest number since 2008.

Even the procession in 2020 - the year of the Covid-19 pandemic - featured some 13,000 soldiers, and last year, 11,000 troops took part.

There was no fly-over of military jets, and the event lasted less than the usual hour.

Moscow students dressed in time period fashion and Soviet style uniform perform the 'Victory Waltz' on Victory Day. Credit: AP

"This is weak. There are no tanks," said Yelena Orlova, a spectator who was watching the vehicles pass through Moscow's Novy Arbat avenue after leaving the Red Square.

"We're upset, but that's all right, it will be better in the future."

The Kremlin's forces deployed in Ukraine are defending a front line stretching more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles), presumably thinning the ranks of troops available for such displays.

"This is supposed to be a showpiece for Russian military might. But so much of that military might has already been mauled in Ukraine that Russia has very little to show on its parade in Red Square," said Keir Giles, a Russia expert at London's Chatham House think tank.

After more attacks in the past week, Ukrainians feared Victory Day would be marked with fresh military action.

The strikes come as Britain seeks to reaffirm it's support for Ukraine, with foreign secretary James Cleverly visiting US secretary of state Anthony Blinken to stress the importance of a "continued, united international front for ensuring a Ukrainian victory".

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pictured in February. Credit: AP

Speaking during the overseas trip, he said Ukraine has "consistently outperformed" expectations in its response to Russia's invasion but there are no "guarantees" it will make gains in its forthcoming counteroffensive.

He said: "Of course there has been an economic impact on the people of the United States and the United Kingdom - this is not a by-product of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, this is part of the conflict.

"We should recognise that if we do not re-establish the principles of the UN charter, the foundation stone of peace in the post-Second World War era, that powerful nations cannot invade their neighbours with impunity, the world will be more dangerous, more expensive, more difficult.

"So this is not just about Ukraine, though the Ukrainians have been suffering enormously and its right that we defend them, it is about us, and it is in our interest as well as in the Ukrainians' interest that we stay resolute in our support."

Elsewhere, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that his nation would from now on "celebrate Europe Day together with all of free Europe" instead of Victory Day.

Europe Day is when the 27 current members of the European Union (EU) celebrate their bond as one.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU's executive branch, made a special trip to Kyiv on Tuesday in a show of support.

"Ukraine has been fighting for the ideals of Europe that we celebrate today to create lasting unity and peace," Ms von der Leyen said.

After more than a year of war with invading Russia, Ukraine sees joining the bloc as an essential element of a future in the Western world.

But as the 27 current members commemorated their bond as one, it was clear how far off Ukraine's membership remains.

In March, the International Criminal Court's (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Putin for war crimes in connection with his alleged involvement in abductions of children from Ukraine.

Speaking to ITV's Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska said she had welcomed the move.

Asked by Susanna Reid if she was looking forward to a time when President Putin is held to account, the first lady said she believes "the whole world wants it".

She said: “Yes we are all waiting for this, but it's not only him.

"There are two names that have now been considered in The Hague, but there are thousands of names.

"This is the systematic work of people who are undermining the rights of children, human rights. This is scary.

"That is why there is a lot of work ahead of us, that we, our international partners and other countries who support us, have to do to hold these people accountable.

"19,000 Ukrainian children now are illegally taken from the territory of Ukraine - this is a lot. They are not cars, fridges, cattle - they are people, children."

She added there are now thousands of Ukrainian children who are psychologically traumatised.

"Children see what they're not supposed to see and feel what they're not supposed to feel, deaths of their relatives, deaths of their parents, tortures," she said.

"Unfortunately, we don't know about everything that is happening on the occupied territories.

"I just want everyone to understand that war in a film or in a video clip can look somehow romantic, but there is no romance in it.

"This is scary, this is very scary, especially from the point of view of a child."

The Partygate: The Inside Story podcast brings you fresh revelations and our whistleblowers in their own words in the definitive behind-closed-doors story of how ITV News uncovered one of the biggest scandals of our era