Ukraine moves day to mark Nazi surrender heading west

  • Russia celebrates Victory over the Nazis Day on May 9
  • Zelenskiy says he will move the anniversary to May 8
  • Decision would align Ukraine with Western countries
  • Russian Foreign Ministry calls Zelensky a ‘traitor’

KYIV, May 8 (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy decided on Monday to formalize the day Ukraine will mark the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II on May 8, aligning it with Western nations in a repudiation of the Soviet past quickly condemned by Moscow.

Addressing Ukrainians on a hill overlooking Kiev, Zelenskiy said the “old evil” had returned, this time led by a “modern Russia” pursuing the same Nazi goal of “subjugation and destruction” – but that he would not succeed.

Zelenskiy said he had submitted a bill to parliament officially making May 8 Ukraine’s Day of Remembrance and Victory, while May 9 would become Europe Day. Zelenskiy wants Ukraine to join the European Union one day after the war.

“We are giving back to our state an honest history without ideological influences. It is on May 8 that most of the nations of the world remember the greatness of the victory over the Nazis,” he said in a video posted on the President’s Telegram channel.

The unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany came into effect at 11:01 p.m. on May 8, 1945, which is already May 9 in Moscow.

Russia marks May 9, a key national event with huge military parades and commemorations of the huge sacrifices made by the then Soviet Union, which lost some 27 million citizens defeating Nazi Germany .

Ukraine first moved the commemoration to May 8 in 2015, accusing Russia, which had annexed Crimea and fueled an insurgency in its east the previous year, of using the anniversary to stoke Russian nationalism. But he did not formalize the change for fear of stoking internal divisions.

“Today I signed the corresponding decree, and every year from tomorrow, May 9, we will commemorate our historic unity – the unity of all Europeans who destroyed Nazism and will defeat ‘Rashism’,” he said. said Zelenskiy, using a word the Ukrainians invented. to describe what they call Russian fascism.

“The unity that brings peace closer.”

‘JUDAS’

The Kremlin has said May 9 will remain sacred for many in Ukraine.

“There are also veterans there who took part in the Great Patriotic War, and their relatives, for whom this day is and will remain sacred,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked about the change.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went further.

“What’s worse than an enemy? A traitor. That’s Zelenskiy, the 21st century incarnation of Judas… An accomplice of the fascists 80 years later,” she said, adding that he had betrayed the memory of dead Ukrainians. fight the Nazis.

Moscow has stepped up attacks on Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kiev, ahead of May 9, and some commentators say President Vladimir Putin wants to secure some sort of victory in the bitter war to coincide with the holiday.

Zelenskiy said Europe could not let this happen and it was time again to defeat ‘evil’ together ‘to ensure that no one ever again enslaves other peoples or destroys other countries”.

“We don’t know the date of our victory yet, but we know it will be a celebration for all of Ukraine, for all of Europe, for all of the free world.”

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Olena Harmash, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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