Ukraine war: Victory Day celebrations, Wagner 'terrorist group', Russia jet ski ban

Ukraine war: Victory Day celebrations, Wagner 'terrorist group', Russia jet ski ban

Victory Day celebrations underway in Russia

Russia commemorates its defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two on Tuesday.

The annual Victory Day military parade will take place amid heightened security, following a spate of alleged Ukrainian attacks on Russia.

It has taken on great significance since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last year, with Russian President Vladimir Putin drawing on WW2 rhetoric to rally people behind the war.

After 15 months of bloody conflict, the Russian army appears weakened, as tensions flare up between generals and the Wagner mercenary group, which has played a pivotal role in the battle for the prized Ukrainian city Bakhmut.

In keeping with tradition Putin will give a speech to thousands of soldiers in Moscow's Red Square. At his side will be leaders from former Soviet Republics, though the Russian leader now finds himself isolated in large quarters of the world.

Like Europe's VE Day on 8 May, the Victory Day Parade was founded in 1945 to celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany in WW2 or the Great Patriotic War as it is known in Russia.

Not only does it commemorate the end of the fighting, it also represents Russia's endurance and strength, with the Soviet Union losing 27 million people - more than any other country - in the war.

Putin has repeatedly likened the fighting in Ukraine to the challenge the Soviet Union faced when Adolf Hitler's Nazis invaded in 1941.

The Victory Day celebrations will take place under reinforced security, amid increasing attacks on Russian territory, which Moscow attributes to Kyiv.

The most spectacular of which was an alleged two-drone assassination attempt on Putin at the Kremlin last week, though many security experts claimed it was an inside job to "bring the war home" for ordinary Russians.

Ukraine has denied any role in this operation, suggesting it could be Russian rebels or a provocation.

France moves to designate Wagner a 'terrorist group'

French lawmakers will vote on a text on Tuesday asking the European Union to add Wagner to its list of terrorist organisations.

The Russian mercenary group, headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, has played a conspicuous role in Ukraine and is accused of conducting human rights abuses on the African continent.

The non-binding resolutions point to the "many atrocities against the civilian population [in Ukraine]" committed by Wagner mercenaries, many of whom are freed convicts. Some could qualify as "war crimes" it adds.

Last month, Euronews reported that Wagner mercenaries had admitted to killing children in Ukraine.

The resolution also notes abuses in Syria and in several African countries such as Mali or the Central African Republic, where Wagner mercenaries have been involved in mining.

Socialists, the Republicans and environmentalists have all signed the text, which will be debated this afternoon.

"It is a question of sending a political, symbolic message, a signal of denunciation of Wagner and its activities - which deliberately target civilians for political gain - as terrorism", said MP Benjamin Haddad, the author of the text.

In March, Lithuania adopted a resolution stating "Wagner is a terrorist organisation", prompting thanks from Kyiv.

The EU added Wagner to its list of sanctioned individuals and entities for "active participation in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine" the month before.

Russia launches attacks on Ukraine's capital

Russia launched more than a dozen missiles at Kyiv on Tuesday, the second attack in two days.

Ukrainian officials claimed most of them were shot down by its air defence systems, as sirens rang out over most of the country.

"As at the front, the plans of the aggressor failed," said Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv's city military administration, on Telegram.

Tuesday's attacks came one day after Moscow unleashed the largest drone swarm yet on Ukraine. Over the last 10 days, it has renewed an air campaign against Ukraine, following a lull in March.

There have been five attacks in May already.

"[They] try to kill as many civilians as possible - on this day," Popko said.

No casualties were reported by the Ukrainian official, adding the missiles had been launched from the Caspian Sea region.

In the often-targeted Shevchenkivskyi district of central Kyiv debris was found on a road.

"Kyiv stood up again and will stand up in the future!" Popko said.

Kim Jong Un believes Russia will prevail over the West

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Russia will defeat Ukraine and its Western allies on Tuesday.

In its fight against the "imperialists", Kim told state news agency KNCA, Russia will continue to protect its "autonomy" and the "stability of the region".

The remarks were made to congratulate Vladimir Putin on Russia's Victory Day, celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

"We send warm wishes to you, the Russian army and the people of Russia for their holy fight to preserve world peace," Kim added.

North Korea has continued to back the Kremlin and its claims following the invasion of Ukraine last year.

Jet skis banned before Russia's Victory Day

Russia enacted a major security clampdown before Tuesday’s annual Victory Day parade, curbing the use of drones, ride-sharing services and even jet skis.

At least 21 Russian cities cancelled May 9 military parades - the staple of celebrations across Russia - for the first time in years, Russian media said.

Regional officials blamed unspecified “security concerns” or vaguely referred to “the current situation” for the restrictions and cancellations.

It wasn't clear whether their decisions were taken in coordination with the Kremlin.

Media and local officials have blamed other sporadic drone attacks, especially targeting oil depots near the two countries’ border, on the Ukrainian military. Plus last week's attack on the Kremlin.

Kyiv officials decline to comment on such claims.

The fears of a possible Ukrainian attack appeared real, even though parades will go ahead in Russia’s largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Using drones has been banned in both cities before Victory Day.

In St. Petersburg, often referred to as the "Venice of the north” for its network of rivers and canals, using jet skis in certain parts of the city is prohibited through Wednesday.

In the Russian capital, car-sharing services have been temporarily barred from the city centre, with drivers unable to start or finish rides there.