“The danger was rising by the day,” Putin said. “Russia has given a pre-emptive response to aggression. It was forced, timely and the only correct decision.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin used a major patriotic holiday Monday to again justify his war in Ukraine but did not declare even a limited victory or signal where the conflict was headed, as his forces pressed their offensive with few signs of significant progress, AP reports.

The Russian leader oversaw a Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square, with troops marching in formation, military hardware on display, and a brass band blaring to mark the Soviet Union’s role in the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany.

But his much-anticipated speech offered no new insights into how he intended to salvage the grinding war — and instead stuck to allegations that Ukraine posed a threat to Russia, even though Moscow’s nuclear-armed forces are far superior in numbers and firepower. He steered clear of battlefield specifics — failing to mention the potentially pivotal battle for the vital port of Mariupol or even uttering the word “Ukraine.”

Putin has long bristled about NATO’s gradual creep eastward, including into former Soviet republics, and sought to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine before an “inevitable” clash. Ukrainian leaders and their Western backers have rejected claims that Kyiv or NATO posed any threat to Russia — but tensions could rise further if Sweden and Finland decide to join the Western alliance, as support for that increases in both countries.

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