OPINION - Evening Standard Comment: Vladimir Putin’s Victory Day Parade highlights his Ukraine miscalculation

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 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

The bombing of kindergartens, the mass murder and systematic rape of civilians and the forced deportation of Ukrainians to Russia — the list of horrors inflicted by Vladimir Putin during his invasion of Ukraine grows longer by the day.

None of these were mentioned during the Russian leader’s annual Victory Day speech in Moscow’s Red Square. Instead, Putin rehashed his usual talking points which bear no semblance to reality: that Ukraine has been overrun by neo-Nazis, Nato was threatening Crimea and Kyiv might get nuclear weapons. Notably, his speech made no major new announcement about Russia’s intentions.

Unsurprisingly, he also made no reference to repeated Russian military failures. Having been unable to take the capital, Putin has now focused his forces around the Donbas region. The brave resistance of the Ukrainian army — and the willingness of the West to support it with money and weapons — has surprised Putin and demonstrates how badly he has miscalculated.

Yet an uncomfortable reality remains. Putin may have been denied his triumph on Victory Day, but this war is likely to be a drawn-out affair. And its impact, while felt most acutely in Ukraine, is bequeathing not only higher prices in Britain but a destabilised world.

A tale of two ‘gates’

It involves a political leader, the consumption of alcohol and the mandatory suffix, but “beergate” cannot justifiably be placed in the same camp as “partygate” — at least not yet.

The political danger for Sir Keir Starmer is obvious. For months, he has channelled public anger over repeated lockdown breaches in Boris Johnson’s Downing Street, and has consistently called on the Prime Minister to resign. Now he himself is being investigated by police. Should Starmer receive a fixed penalty notice, he would face enormous pressure to fall on his sword.

However, that is where the similarities diverge. A one-off post-campaigning event does not equate to the culture of parties and poor leadership made explicit in Sue Gray’s interim report. The investigation by Durham Police should be allowed to proceed, but it is the culmination of a campaign fought by curious bedfellows — Conservatives and Corbynites — to oust or at least wound the Labour leader.

They have partially succeeded in masking the Tories’ disastrous local elections results, in which the party lost 487 seats and 12 councils, including Barnet, Wandsworth and Westminster in London. But it cannot hide the Prime Minister’s misdeeds nor the cost of living crisis that is underway, set to get worse and which he and his Chancellor do not seem eager or equipped to address.

Landlord fears

Major central London landlords Capco and Shaftesbury have confirmed they are in advanced discussions regarding a potential merger. Small businesses, already facing high rents and spiralling business costs, will understandably hold concerns about a giant landlord that can potentially dominate the West End and dictate prices further.

We hope a new, larger landlord will have the space and will to take a longer-term view on their patch of the city and invest in the West End. Those behind the deal should do everything they can to reassure their tenants of a smooth transition and a sustainable future.

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