Just before the troops and tanks paraded in Moscow’s Red Square, Russian satellite television menus were altered to show viewers in the Russian capital messages condemning the war in Ukraine.
“The TV and the authorities are lying. No to war,” screenshots obtained by Reuters showed before they disappeared.
Russian forces have devastated villages, towns and cities and driven nearly six million Ukrainians to flee since they invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said Russian forces were now trying to advance in eastern Ukraine, where the situation was “difficult”, but had moved back from the city of Kharkiv, where a local official reported heavy Russian shelling.
Kyiv has called for the UN Human Rights Council to hold a special session to review the “continuously deteriorating” situation across Ukraine, including reports of mass casualties in Mariupol, a letter showed on Monday.
Three more civilians were killed in Kharkiv and three in the Luhansk region, its governor Serhiy Gaidai said. It was not immediately possible to verify the reports.
“Today we do not know what to expect from the enemy, what terrible thing they might do, so please go out onto the street as little as possible, stay in the shelters,” he said on Monday.
Putin said Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine was a purely defensive and unavoidable measure against plans for a NATO-backed invasion of lands he said were historically Russia’s, including Crimea.
“Russia preventively rebuffed the aggressor,” he said, offering no evidence for what he called open preparations to attack Crimea and Ukraine’s Donbas region.
In 2014, Russian-backed separatists seized parts of Donbas in eastern Ukraine and Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine the same year. Moscow then massed troops around Ukraine last year ahead of an all-out invasion that Kyiv and its Western allies say was entirely unprovoked.
“NATO countries were not going to attack Russia. Ukraine did not plan to attack Crimea,” Ukrainian senior presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said after Putin’s comments.
Putin casts the war as a battle against dangerous “Nazi”-inspired nationalists in Ukraine – an allegation Kyiv and its allies say is nonsense – and links it to the challenge the Soviet Union faced when Adolf Hitler invaded in 1941.