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Limping Putin huddles under a blanket in desperate bid to rally Russia on Victory Day
9 May 2022, 08:50 | Updated: 9 May 2022, 16:27
Vladimir Putin appeared to be limping as he huddled under a blanket during a military parade on Russia's Victory Day.
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The Russian President today walked with a heavy step in an apparent attempt to conceal a limp as he tried to rally his troops in Ukraine while marking the anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.
Putin, 69, also had his legs covered by a blanket for the military parade despite sitting among a group of veterans who did not have their laps covered.
It is the latest evidence the strongman is suffering health issues amid claims he could have early onset Parkinson's, a nervous system disorder that affects movement and causes tremors.
Persistent rumours of Putin's ill health have circled for several years, including claims he underwent surgery for cancer two years ago, though none of claims have been confirmed.
Putin, speaking in front of thousands of military personnel in Moscow this morning, tried to defend his savage war in Ukraine by telling citizens the West was "preparing for the invasion of our land, including Crimea".
In an apparent bid to rally his troops, he said they were "fighting for [their] motherland, its future".
"The death of every soldier and officer is painful for us," he said. "The state will do everything to take care of these families."
Putin warned the West was preparing an operation in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region and that Russia had "urged Europe to find a fair compromise, but they didn't want to hear us".
"In Kyiv they were saying they might get nuclear weapons and Nato started exploring the lands close to us and that became an obvious threat to our country and to our borders. Everything was telling us that there is a need to fight."
The Victory Day showing, including an air display over Moscow's Red Square involving the Doomsday nuclear plane, was reportedly scaled back this morning because of "bad weather", though observers suggested the drawbacks were a result of security fears.
Parades in Yekaterinburg, Murmansk and Samara were cancelled ostensibly as a result of "bad weather" while a planned air display in Novosibirsk was scaled back, despite sunny conditions in the city this morning.
It came as Russian TV channels were hacked and their online broadcasts renamed with a message warning viewers they had Ukrainian blood on their hands.
Viewers of online outlets MTS mobile operator, NTV Plus, Rostelecom, and Wink saw the message: “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of their children is on your hands. TV and the authorities lie. No to war.”
The names of major channels Rossiya-1, Channel One and NTV-Plus were also changed to the anti-war slogan by hackers.
This morning the online Russian TV schedule page was hacked— Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) May 9, 2022
The name of every programme was changed to "On your hands is the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and their hundreds of murdered children. TV and the authorities are lying. No to war" pic.twitter.com/P2uCNz8cqa
Putin told packed rows of service members the "special operation" in Ukraine was a preemptive strike in response to "unacceptable" threats on Russia's borders from NATO and Kyiv.
Putin, speaking surrounded by red Soviet flags and orange-and-black striped military ribbons erected for the celebration, did not provide evidence of the alleged threats.
Russians had feared that Putin would use the occasion to declare that what the Kremlin has previously called a "special military operation" in Ukraine would now be a full-fledged war but the speech ended without a major announcement.
Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelenskyy released a video today marking Victory Day in Europe in which he warned generations of Ukrainians would understand the importance of the words "Never again".
Footage showed Zelenskyy walking in front of an apartment block in Borodyanka, a suburb of Kyiv, destroyed by Russian shelling, as he warned Putin's invasion was reminiscent of Nazism.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, speaking in a speech at the National Army Museum in London today, warned Putin was trying to scare the rest of the world.
"Really what President Putin wants is the Russian people and the world to be awed and intimidated by the ongoing memorial to militarism," he said.
"I believe the ongoing and unprovoked conflict in Ukraine does nothing but dishonour those same soldiers."
Mr Wallace also accused Putin of making "fairytale claims for months and years now."
He said: "If it wasn't so tragic it would be amusing, but it isn't... One of his claims is that he is surrounded. NATO accounts for six per cent of his land border. That's not being surrounded if only six per cent of your land border is NATO countries."
Mr Wallace also slammed the Russian President's claim "that there were NATO bases in Ukraine."
"I think he is believing what he wants to believe - a slight shine of desperation. But let me put on the record categorically: NATO, Britain, eastern Europe is not planning to invade Russia and never has done."
The annual Victory Day speech and parade marks the anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.
Parades in cities across the country, with the largest held in Moscow's Red Square, usually see thousands of troops, missiles, tanks and aircraft displayed in an apparent show of military might.