Russia celebrates the end of World War II as Putin justifies starting a war in Ukraine

Published May 9, 2022 at 8:31 AM EDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flower-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after a Victory Day military parade today in central Moscow.
Anton Novoderezhkin
SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flower-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after a Victory Day military parade today in central Moscow.

Orange and black ribbons are draped across Russia to celebrate Victory Day, which marks the end of World War II. Russian President Vladimir Putin used the opportunity to justify the invasion of Ukraine in a speech from Moscow's Red Square, repeating a series of false claims.

Here's what we're following:

U.S. diplomats are back in Kyiv following Ukraine's successful defense of the capital. U.S. officials have returned to the city for the first time since evacuating ahead of the Russian invasion; the embassy there is expected to reopen soon.

The first ladies of Ukraine and the United States held a surprise meeting. Jill Biden's visit was the first time a U.S. first lady has traveled solo to a combat zone since 2015. Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, had been in hiding along with their children since the beginning of the war.

Their lives have been disrupted by war, but they're still pursuing their science dreams. Ukrainian students Sofiia Smovzh, Serhii Kolomiichuk and Dmytriy Omelyanov, all 17 years old, are finalists in this week's International Science and Engineering Fair.


Senior U.S. defense official says Russia is making limited progress in eastern Ukraine

Posted May 9, 2022 at 12:46 PM EDT
Two soldiers walk next to a statue piled high with sandbags.
Sergei Supinsky
AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian servicemen walk past the sandbagged monument to WWII hero Air Marshal of Soviet Army Ivan Kozhedub in Kyiv on Monday.

Despite speculation that Russia might attempt a significant move to mark May 9, or Victory Day, a senior U.S. defense official said there are no major changes on the battlefield.

The official described Russia’s ongoing attempts to advance in eastern Ukraine as “very limited progress over the past few days.”

In the northeast, Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian troops further to the east outside the city Kharkiv, which has been a Russian target since the beginning of the war. The Russians are now about 25 miles from the eastern edge of the city.

In the Donbas, the Russian effort is described as “incremental and somewhat anemic.” The Russians have relied on their traditional doctrine, which calls for artillery shelling to soften up Ukrainian positions in advance of a Russian ground offensive.

While this has produced some limited gains for the Russians, the Ukrainians are pushing back with increased artillery fire of their own. The Ukrainian ground forces are often holding their ground, and in some instances pushing the Russians back.

The Russians are regularly rotating units in and out of eastern Ukraine, as would be expected, the official said, adding that the overall number of Russian troops in Ukraine has edged up only slightly in recent days.

Newsmaker interview

Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. says Ukraine will insist on EU membership

Posted May 9, 2022 at 11:35 AM EDT
Ambassador Oksana Markarova speaks into a microphone while sitting in front of a nameplate.
Anna Moneymaker
Getty Images
Ukraine's Ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, speaks during a hearing with the Helsinki Commission in Washington, D.C. on March 23, 2022.

Weekend Edition host Scott Simon spoke with Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, about the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Listen to their conversation or read on for highlights.

On what victory would look like for Ukraine:

The victory is for us would be for Russians to stop the war first, to stop the aggression, get out from our country, and for us to restore our territorial integrity and sovereignty. We are not ready to surrender. We are not ready to live under occupation. We Ukrainians know too well what happens to us when Russians occupy us.

On whether Ukraine would insist on EU and NATO membership:

We want to return to our European family and be part of the European community but also this transatlantic family. So yes, it is something that we very much believe in. Of course, it requires our friends and partners will to accept us also ... The European Union, despite this horrible war that Russia waged against us again, is also acting very fast on our applications. And it signals clearly that the European Union would like to see us in the future as a part of European Union."

On whether Ukraine would insist on the return of Crimea to bring an end to the war:

Crimea was, is, and always will be Ukraine. We will never agree to this brutal aggression, and we will never agree to what Russia did to us. We will use all the diplomatic tools to return it.

International Dispatch
From Lviv

A 4-year-old was evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant, but separated from her mom

Posted May 9, 2022 at 11:33 AM EDT
A parking lot serving as a processing center is full of cars and buses.
Ed Jones
AFP via Getty Images
A general view shows a registration and processing area for internally displaced people arriving from Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, in Ukrainian-controlled Zaporizhzhia last Monday.

In the past few days, the United Nations and the International Red Cross have helped evacuate more than 170 people from the devastated port city of Mariupol.

One of them, reportedly, was a 4-year-old girl with straight brown hair named Alice, who was sheltering underground in the Azovstal steel plant.

But the Azov-Mariupol Regiment of the Ukrainian military now reports that Alice has gotten separated from her mother, who they say has been taken to a Russian filtration camp.

"We call on the world community to intervene and return the mother to her child," said the regiment in its statement, posted to Telegram. NPR did not independently verify the report.

In a video posted by an aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on April 18, and purportedly taken inside Azovstal, the little girl appears clutching a book and a pen, wearing a shirt with a cartoon character on it.

“I am in the bunker,” she says. “I want to be evacuated. I want to go home.” She sends a greeting to her “Grandma Sveta.“

Oleksandra Matviichuk, a human rights activist with the Center for Civil Liberties — a Ukranian NGO — gave Alice’s mother’s name on Twitter as Victoriya Obidina, identified her as a military doctor and posted a photo, calling for her release and saying her whereabouts were unknown.

It’s not known precisely how many children had been sheltering in the Azovstal plant during the extended standoff in Mariupol. The Azov regiment of the Ukrainian military released a video last month that purported to show a crowded room underground full of women and children.

It’s also not known how many Ukrainians have passed through the filtration camps, where Ukrainians being sent to Russia are interrogated, fingerprinted and forced to hand over personal documents.

Russian authorities say they've been "evacuating" people from dangerous areas in Ukraine, estimating that a total of nearly 1.2 million people have been brought to Russia, housed in thousands of temporary accommodation centers across the country.

Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine commissioner for human rights, named a similar number in a livestreamed press appearance today. She said more than a million citizens, including more than 200,000 children, have been “forcefully” brought to Russia — and that many of them first passed through camps in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Foreign leaders

World leaders weighed in on the war in Ukraine on Victory in Europe Day

Posted May 9, 2022 at 11:08 AM EDT
Trudeau and Zelenskyy speak at podiums in front of Ukrainian and Canadian flags.
Efrem Lukatsky/AP
Zelenskyy and Trudeau meet in Kyiv on Sunday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Kyiv over the weekend, raising the Canadian flag to mark the reopening of Canada’s Embassy in Kyiv and meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Trudeau said the flag was taken down on Feb. 13, before the Russian invasion. Reopening the embassy is “a testament to how the Ukrainian people have been so strong and resilient,” Trudeau said in a speech. “That they’ve been able to protect their city and continue to fight for their language, their culture, their identity and their country.”

In Germany, in a speech to mark the anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned there can be no peace under a Russian dictatorship.

In a televised address on Sunday night, Scholz said he is convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not win this war, and that Ukraine will prevail.

“Freedom and security will win the day,” Scholz said, “just as freedom and security triumphed over oppression, violence, and dictatorship 77 years ago.”

G7 leaders released a statement commemorating the anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe and pledging to further support Ukraine.

“We reiterate our condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustifiable and illegal military aggression against Ukraine and the indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, which has resulted in terrible humanitarian catastrophe in the heart of Europe,” the statement said.

Good boy

Patron the bomb-sniffing dog cements his hero status with a presidential medal

Posted May 9, 2022 at 10:28 AM EDT
Patron the Jack Russell terrier stands in a tiled hallway, wearing a leash and protective vest with an insignia on it.
Efrem Lukatsky
Patron poses at an awards ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine on Sunday.

A tiny Jack Russell terrier has won hearts and admirers for helping neutralize hundreds of Russian explosives in Ukraine. Now he's won state honors, too.

Patron the bomb-sniffing dog — and his owner, Mykhailo Iliev of the Civil Protection Service
— received a medal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a news conference on Sunday, in recognition of their service to the country.

Patron, whose name means "ammo" in Ukrainian, is credited with detecting more than 200 undetonated explosive devices since the beginning of the war in late February, according to Reuters.

With his powerful snout and pint-sized protective vest, Patron has become a fixture of Ukraine's official social media channels and an international symbol of patriotism. He's even inspired an outpouring of fan artin the form of illustrations (ranging from poignant to tongue-in-cheek) and knit plushies. His official Instagram page has more than 220,000 followers.

Zelenskyy handed out the award at a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Kyiv, as Patron barked and wagged his tail enthusiastically. At one point, Trudeau laughed and pretended to check his pockets for treats.

In remarks later that day, Zelenskyy described Patron as "a small but very famous sapper," or military engineer.

"A dog who helps clean our land from the traces of the occupiers, and who also helps teach children mine safety," he said. "Due to the Russian invaders, this is now one of the most urgent tasks — to teach children to recognize and avoid explosive objects."

The 2-year-old terrier was professionally trained by cynologists to showcase how dogs can be trained to perform specific tasks, but pivoted at the start of the war to learning how to sniff out mines, according to TODAY Parents.

Iliev — who is from Chernihiv and has been doing this type of work since 2014 — initially bought Patron from a work colleague as a pet for his son. Now the two work together to neutralize mines and missiles left by Russian forces.

Here's how that works: Patron was trained to recognize the smell of gunpowder. When he smells it, he gives a signal to Iliev, who then works with his human teammates to find and defuse the devices.

Patron "gives rays of the sun, gives smiles and gives hope only for victory and peace on earth," Iliev told TODAY, adding that Patron will work "as long as our people need it."

When Patron isn't sniffing out explosives, he's out in the community doing charity work. That's according to Ukraine's Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security, which shared picture of him greeting a child at a Kyiv hospital last month.

The work is tough, and evidently tiring — Belarusian opposition outlet NEXTA tweeted a now-viral photo of the tuckered-out pup asleep during a press briefing over the weekend.

But Patron still finds time to enjoy classic canine pursuits like playing with his friends and snacking on his favorite treats.

"Patron just loves cheese," Iliev said. "He is a very active dog that likes to have a good run with other dogs and then, of course, sleep."

In fact, according to a Google translation, the State Emergency Service quipped on Facebook that Patron enjoyed meeting Canada's leader at Sunday's ceremony, "even though Mr. Trudeau did not find a piece of Patron's favorite cheese."


Here's what Putin said about Ukraine in his Victory Day speech

Posted May 9, 2022 at 10:07 AM EDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin stands in a line with other men in military uniforms, with red and blue flags behind them.
Anton Novoderezhkin
Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flower-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin devoted much of his annual Victory Day speech to Ukraine, painting Russia's campaign as this generation's link to the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany and describing it as forced by actions of the U.S. and NATO.

Putin did not claim any victories, however, nor did he signal major military or policy shifts in what the Kremlin continues to call its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

In the third month of Russia's attacks on Ukraine, Putin has few outright victories to claim, prompting earlier speculation — both in Russia and abroad — that he might use the speech to launch national mobilization and formally declare war against not only Ukraine but possibly other countries in the West.

Instead, addressing phalanxes of troops filling Moscow's Red Square, Putin repeated his claims that Western nations and Ukraine had been planning their own attacks, perhaps on Russia's "historical lands," including Crimea. He said Kyiv considered acquiring nuclear weapons and had been building up its military with NATO's support.

"A threat absolutely unacceptable to us was being systemically created," Putin said, describing danger as "mounting by the day" and adding: "Russia gave a preemptive rebuff to aggression. This decision was forced, timely and the only correct one — a decision by a sovereign, strong and independent country."

Click here or keep reading for more details.

Putin went on to address the troops and militia members in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, where Russia's military has intensified its focus in recent weeks. He said they were fighting for the future of the motherland and to preserve the lessons of World War II, that "there's no place in the world for executioners, punishers and Nazis."

The Kremlin has framed its invasion of Ukraine as a fight to "de-nazify" the country — a thread that Putin continued in his Victory Day address, claiming Russia's clash with Ukraine's neo-Nazis and Nazi sympathizers had been "inevitable."

"Today you are defending what the fathers and grandfathers, great-grandfathers fought for," Putin said. "For them, the highest meaning of life was always the well-being and security of the homeland. And for us, their heirs, the devotion to the motherland is the main value, a pillar of strength for Russia's independence."

In a rare acknowledgment of the losses suffered by Russian forces in Ukraine, Putin said each soldier's death was "our shared grief," pledging support for children and families of those who died or were injured.

May 9 has long been one of the most venerated holidays in Russia, marking the end, in 1945, of what Russians call the Great Patriotic War, in which more than 20 million Soviet citizens died at home and abroad.

Under Putin, the event has grown in scale and political prominence, flexing the country's military power with a Soviet-style parade on Red Square and smaller versions in many cities and towns. Monday's main parade featured thousands of soldiers and dozens of military vehicles, though the Kremlin canceled an aircraft flyover, citing weather conditions.


The Ukraine crisis revives doubts over the New York Times' 1932 Pulitzer Prize

Posted May 9, 2022 at 10:00 AM EDT
A black-and-white photo of a white man in a suit, sitting at a table and smoking a cigarette while talking.
John Rooney
Walter Duranty, pictured in 1936 at a luncheon given in his honor by the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents at the Hotel Lombardy in New York, repeatedly defended Soviet Premier Josef Stalin.

The New York Times is looking to add to its list of 132 Pulitzer Prizes — by far the most of any news organization — when the 2022 recipients for journalism are announced on Monday.

Yet the war in Ukraine has renewed questions of whether the Times should return a Pulitzer awarded 90 years ago for work by Walter Duranty, its charismatic chief correspondent in the Soviet Union.

"He is the personification of evil in journalism," says Oksana Piaseckyj, a Ukrainian-American activist who came to the U.S. as a child refugee in 1950. She is among the advocates for the return of the award. "We think he was like the originator of fake news."

A new voice now adds himself to the cause: former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller — himself a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1989 for his own reporting for the Times on the Soviet Union.

In the 1930s, as now, an autocrat's decrees led to mass deaths of Ukrainian civilians and relied on misinformation to try to cover it up. Reporters, including Duranty, were censored and threatened. (A U.S. diplomat once wrote that Duranty told him his reports had to reflect "the official opinion of the Soviet regime.") Yet in a time before social media and the internet, foreign journalists were among the only ones who could get news out to the rest of the world.

Duranty was The New York Times' man in Moscow, as the line went, with a cushy apartment in which to entertain expatriates and a reputation as a leading authority on the Soviet Union. Duranty had staked his name on the idea that Josef Stalin was the strong leader the communist country needed. He is often credited with coining the term "Stalinism."

He wrote glowing reports of an autocrat's harsh plans for Ukraine

In return, Duranty won rare interviews with Stalin and wrote glowingly about Stalin and his plans. The Pulitzer board cited his "dispassionate interpretive reporting" in awarding him a prize in 1932 for a series of reports the previous year. The first was a front-page article that started with the line: "Russia today cannot be judged by Western standards or interpreted in Western terms."

It is worth being clear on what Stalin's plans, called "collectivization," led to: the deaths of millions of Ukrainians and more than a million Russians, according to credible estimates.

"Activists from the Communist Party locally and nationally went house to house in Ukrainian towns and villages, confiscating food," says the journalist and scholar Anne Applebaum, who has written extensively on the period. "They took wheat, they took grain, they took vegetables, they took livestock. They took everything that people had."

Applebaum's bookRed Famine chronicles the ensuing catastrophe based on an extensive review of archives by Ukrainian historians.

"People ate mice, they ate rats, they ate leaves, they ate grass," Applebaum says. "There were even some incidents of cannibalism."

She says Stalin used collectivization to crush any nationalist stirrings in Ukraine and to pay for his efforts to industrialize the Soviet Union. Communist Party officials had possible dissidents arrested, exiled and killed, especially professionals.

"It's thought that between 3 and 4 million people died" in Ukraine, she says.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Disclosure: This story was reported by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik and edited by Media & Tech Editor Emily Kopp, Chief Business Editor Pallavi Gogoi and Senior Business Editor Uri Berliner. As NPR Senior Vice President for News and Editorial Director Nancy Barnes serves on the Pulitzer Prize board, neither Barnes nor any other senior news executive at NPR reviewed this story before it was posted publicly.

International Dispatch
From Ukraine

Russia is preventing civilians from evacuating after Ukrainian school bombing, says local official

Posted May 9, 2022 at 9:20 AM EDT

LVIV — Two days after an attack on a school in far eastern Ukraine that killed as many as 60 people, a local official says Russian fire is making civilian evacuations impossible.

On Friday a bomb hit a school in the town of Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region, where up to 90 civilians were sheltering. The building was reduced to burning rubble and about 30 people were rescued, according to the regional governor, Sergei Haidai.

Today, Haidai said that no civilians could be evacuated and no humanitarian aid could come into the region because the road is coming under enemy fire. In the afternoon, he added that over 40,000 residents remain in Luhansk; troops are clearing the territory so that evacuations can resume. 

The Ukrainian government called the school attack a “brutal war crime.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said through a spokesperson that he is "appalled," and that according to international law, civilians and civilian infrastructure must be spared during wartime.


These Ukrainian students are competing virtually in an international science fair

Posted May 9, 2022 at 9:03 AM EDT
A young man wearing glasses and black gloves stands next to a table with different-size jars of specimens inside.
Society for Science
Dmytriy Omelyanov is working with a fellow student on a project involving cockroaches. They will be competing in the science fair virtually from Ukraine.

Sofiia Smovzh, Serhii Kolomiichuk and Dmytriy Omelyanov are 17-year-old high school students from Ukraine. They were participating in a national science fair in Kyiv on the morning that Russia began its assault on their country.

Kolomiichuk and Omelyanov are from Dnipro, in central Ukraine. On Feb. 24, as they heard explosions go off in Kyiv, they made the long journey home on a packed train.

“Since there was just a huge number of people, we had to sleep two people on the top bunk,” Kolomiichuk tells Morning Edition. “People slept for 10 hours wherever they could — on the floor, in the vestibule and just sitting. Arriving home — constant air raid alerts awaited us.”

Smovzh’s family left Kyiv.

“My family moved to western part of Ukraine on the first day of the war,” she says. “I have a small sister, and we didn’t want her to listen to all the sounds of explosions.”

Her mom and sister are now living in Spain. Her stepdad stayed behind in Ukraine and she herself now lives in France.

“The atmosphere in Ukraine when you sit and read the news — it’s very hard to focus on studying, and that’s why I moved to Paris," she explains.

A girl with red hair and glasses smiles while standing in front of a poster board covered with text, diagrams and calculations.
Society for Science
Sofiia Smovzh's work involves cancer treatments. She will compete in the science fair from Paris, where she moved during the war.

Smovzh, Kolomiichuk and Omelyanov are now finalists in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Atlanta this week. There are 1750 finalists from around the world — many at the event in person for the first time in two years.

Kolomiichuk, Omelyanov and Smovzh are competing virtually.

Smovzh aims to find less-toxic treatments for cancer. Kolomiichuk and Omelyanov are working on a joint project that involves studying cockroaches.

“Cockroaches are carriers of many parasites,” Omelyanov says. “People have long learned to deal with these insects with insecticides but they have already become a problem. We find nontoxic aromatic mixtures that can become a complete replacement for insecticides.”

A headshot of a young boy smiling and wearing a red, navy and white plaid shirt.
Society for Science
Serhii Kolomiichuk is from Dnipro, Ukraine. He is working with Omelyanov on a cockroach-related project.

As they work under trying circumstances, Smovzh talks of what it means to be a finalist in ISEF.

“For me, it’s more than just individual participation and winning something or not winning something," she says. "I study and prepare for ISEF to show that Ukraine is a strong and independent country and we are strong in every field, in science as well.”

Listen to their conversation withMorning Edition's Leila Fadel.


Jill Biden visits Ukraine, making her first solo trip to a combat zone as first lady

Posted May 9, 2022 at 8:32 AM EDT
Jill Biden, holding a bouquet of colorful flowers, and Olena Zelenska smile at each other while standing outside of a brown and yellow building.
Susan Walsh
AP Pool
First Lady Jill Biden greets her Ukrainian counterpart, Olena Zelenska, in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, on Sunday.

First Lady Jill Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine Sunday and met with the country's first lady, Olena Zelenska. It was the first time a U.S. first lady has traveled solo to a combat zone since 2015, when Michelle Obama visited Qatar's al-Udeid Air Base.

Biden crossed the Slovakia-Ukraine border after a visit to the Slovakia side of a border crossing in Vysne Nemecke. She spent about two hours in Ukraine, visiting the city of Uzhhorod, in Zakarpattia Oblast in the southwest corner of the country.

Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has been in hiding along with their children since the beginning of the war. This was the first time since the war began that Zelenska had emerged in public.

Biden and Zelenska met at a school that has been converted into a shelter for internally displaced Ukrainians. Zelenska stepped out of a black SUV guarded by a Ukrainian soldier. Biden handed her flowers, and the two hugged. They then met in a small side room behind closed doors for more than an hour.

Read more here, or listen to the report onMorning Edition.

International Dispatch
From Ukraine

American diplomats have returned to Kyiv for the first time since Russia invaded

Posted May 9, 2022 at 8:32 AM EDT
The sign outside the U.S. embassy in Kyiv. The trees around it are blooming with white flowers.
John Moore/Getty Images
Getty Images Europe
The closed United States Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine.

KYIV - The U.S. has sent a diplomatic mission back to the American embassy in Ukraine for the first time since embassy staff evacuated in the runup to the Russian invasion in February. A formal reopening of the embassy is expected soon.

In a trip that State Department officials say was to commemorate Victory in Europe Day, the acting head of the U.S. diplomatic mission to Ukraine arrived by motorcade at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. The return came as Ukraine anxiously was waiting to see whether Moscow intensified its attacks to coincide with military celebrations of Victory Day in Russia.

State Department officials say the arrival of American diplomats back in Kyiv is a statement of solidarity with the Ukrainian people and a testament to Ukraine's success in defending the capital.

The Biden administration has nominated a veteran diplomat, Bridget Brink, to be the ambassador to Ukraine. Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is slated to start tomorrow.

International Dispatch
From Ukraine

What Victory Day looks like in Russia, Ukraine and occupied territories

Posted May 9, 2022 at 8:32 AM EDT
Military vehicles drive down a street with old buildings and a hammer-and-sickle insignia behind them.
Alexander Zemlianichenko
Russian self-propelled artillery vehicles roll down a street during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia on Monday.

Orange and black ribbons are draped across Russia today to celebrate Victory Day, one of the country's biggest holidays, which marks the end of World War II (or what Soviets once called "The Great Patriotic War").

The celebrations have taken on added intrigue and import this year because of the war. They come as Russian troops have suffered heavy losses in their invasion of Ukraine — which President Vladimir Putin justified today in a speech from Moscow's Red Square.

His false claims included: Russia is the victim, Russian troops are fighting Nazis in eastern Ukraine just as they did in WWII, Ukraine has tried to attack territories like Crimea and has threatened nuclear war.

"None of that is true, but it's clearly designed ... to sort of use national mythology to generate support for a war of choice, which still isn't working after two-and-a-half months," NPR's Frank Langfitt tellsMorning Edition, adding that Putin didn't say anything about mobilizing more troops.

Langfitt listened to Putin's speech from the port city of Odesa in southern Ukraine.

Ukraine, like the rest of Europe, celebrated the victory over the Nazis yesterday. Langfitt says people rode their bikes along the water and ate at seaside cafes, enjoying the sunny day.

Today everyone is sheltering indoors and bracing for an attack on the south. The Ukrainian military says there are six Russian ships and several submarines advancing in the Black Sea. And there's certainly no celebration here for the Soviet military, with Langfitt noting that Russia has been at war with Ukraine since 2014.

A destroyed building on a sandy beach.
Oleksandr Gimanov
AFP via Getty Images
This picture taken on Sunday shows a destroyed beach hotel in Ukrainian city of Odesa.

The scene looks very different in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, however. In Kherson, where Russia has installed its own government, officials have put up billboards with hammers and sickles and set up a stage downtown in preparation for Victory Day celebrations.

Langfitt says a Russian propaganda channel showed video this morning of people in a park, waving Soviet flags and portraits of soldiers and chanting "Thank you grandpa for the victory." He adds that checkpoints were set up in recent days to prevent protesters from accessing the celebrations.

Meanwhile, the war and accompanying humanitarian crisis drag on.

Evacuations are continuing, with roughly 170 people managing to escape from Mariupol by bus last night. Less than 40 of them were among those who were sheltering beneath a besieged steel plant, and Langfitt says it's unclear at this point whether other civilians are still trapped there.

Elsewhere in the east, Luhansk authorities say 60 people are missing after a Russian bomb leveled the school they were using as a shelter. They say there's too much ongoing shelling to do more excavations, and presume that all 60 people have died.