What was the message behind Putin's speech?

In his Victory Day address on Red Square, Vladimir Putin described Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a preventive step in the interest of peace. He said the West had been arming Ukraine and planning an invasion. The speech contained neither an official declaration of war nor the announcement of a general mobilisation. Europe's press analyses its content and impact.

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Le Temps (CH) /

Relatively subdued

For Le Temps, the president's rather restrained speech was a signal to the Nato states:

“Vladimir Putin's very brief speech was striking for its moderation. It stood in contrast to the display of power by his army. ... The president even went so far as to pay tribute to the French and British deployment in the Second World War. A reserved stance that some observers say is also evident in the Russian military action in Ukraine. Contrary to expectations, they say, the Kremlin is not using its full firepower there. This is certainly a consequence of the tactical weakness of the Russian army, but possibly also a sign that Vladimir Putin sees no point in extending this war to the Nato states.”

Adevărul (RO) /

All-out confrontation

Against the background of Finland's imminent accession to Nato, analyst Cristian Unteanu interprets the speech as a warning shot in Adevărul:

“If Ukraine is seen as such a serious threat to Russia's national security, how will the Kremlin interpret this Scandinavian country's actions (and probably Sweden's as well), which will completely change the balance of power in the Baltics and vastly diminish the strength of the Russian fleet in the region and in Kaliningrad? Is Putin ready to seek an all-out confrontation with the West, which he has just shown how much he despises? I think so: the harsher tone of the offensive message is no longer just about Ukraine and leaves little to zero chance of peace negotiations in the near future.”

The New Times (RU) /

Brainwashing from on high

For The New Times, which is blocked in Russia, the speech is an example of how the Russian president leads his people around by the nose:

“Putin's therapy is hatred and his anaesthetic is absurdity. The result is a psychopathic nation, but one that is united around the commander of the besieged fortress, from which there is no escape anyway. ... He wants to tarnish the citizens of Russia with their support for the 'special operation', so that they take responsibility together with the state power for what is happening in Ukraine. The people are disoriented and have no opinions of their own, which is why it's easy for them to accept as their own the crude clichés delivered to them by Putin and his propaganda.”

Denik (CZ) /

Crude propaganda also has an effect

Many will believe the lies no matter how implausible, Deník fears:

“Putin's narrative may seem ridiculous and repugnant to educated inhabitants of a free country. Nevertheless people may fall for it. We don't even have to go all the way back to the Third Reich to find examples. Just recall the talk about Covid being non-existent, or about people being implanted with chips through vaccination. Many in the West believed that too.”

Õhtuleht (EE) /

Does he actually believe what he's saying?

How deluded can the Russian president be? Õhtuleht wonders:

“Putin's speech was full of clichés and accusations: no one understands the Russian soul and the Russians have to fight alone against the barbaric West to save humanity from ruin. And this they do heroically, without worrying about their own wellbeing. Does Putin himself really believe that he is the saviour of the world?”