Putin channels victory over Hitler to spur army

STORY: Addressing massed ranks of service personnel on Red Square on the 77th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany, Putin condemned what he called external threats to weaken and divide Russia, and repeated familiar arguments that he had used to justify Russia's invasion on February 24 - that NATO was creating threats right next to its borders.

He directly addressed soldiers fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which Russia has pledged to "liberate" from Kyiv's control.

"You are fighting for the Motherland, for its future, so that no one forgets the lessons of World War Two. So that there is no place in the world for executioners, punishers and Nazis," he said.

His speech included a minute of silence.

He was addressing Russia on one of its most important annual holidays, when the nation honors the 27 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives in the struggle to defeat Adolf Hitler - a source of national pride and identity.

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