Politics

Defence Secretary says Putin 'mirroring fascism and tyranny' of WW2

Ben Wallace spoke at the National Army Museum on the same day as Russia's Victory Day parade in Moscow.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has accused Moscow's generals of being "utterly complicit" in "lowly gangsterism" under Vladimir Putin.

In a speech at the National Army Museum (NAM) in Chelsea, Mr Wallace said: "Shame on those who seek to use the suffering of the Russians as a launchpad for their own imperial ambitions.

"They are the ones who truly insult the memory of the immortal regiment. So, let's call out the absurdity of Russian generals resplendent in their manicured parade uniforms, weighed down by the gold braid and glistening metals."

Watch: Ukraine - Vladimir Putin blames Russian invasion on Western policies.

The international community has accused Moscow of committing terrible war crimes in Ukraine, and according to Mr Wallace that's gone one shocking step further with Russia using mobile crematoriums on the battlefield.

"Consider the fact alone that mobile crematorium trundle around the battlefield, and not just to hide Russian war crimes," he said.

"They are for their own soldiers' corpses as well.

"Imagine what it must do to the morale of a private soldier to know that your commanders have so little faith in their campaign that you are followed around by these horrific contraptions."

Mr Wallace's attack came as Russia marks its annual 9 May Victory Day – a national holiday that commemorates the Soviet victory over the Nazis in 1945.

Mr Wallace added: "[The generals] are utterly complicit in Putin's hijacking of their forebearers' proud history of defending against the ruthless invasion, of repelling fascism and sacrificing themselves for higher purpose.

"Now they are the ones inflicting needless suffering in the service of lowly gangsterism and for them, and for Putin, there can be no Victory Day, only dishonour and surely defeat in Ukraine."

The Russian president used a Victory Day military parade in Moscow on Monday to cast his invasion of Ukraine as a necessary response to Western policies, something Mr Wallace said was "fairytale claims" in his NAM speech.

Watch: Ukraine – what is the Azov Battalion?

In his Moscow address, Mr Putin claimed that his attack on Russia's neighbour was necessary to ward off "an absolutely unacceptable threat just next to our borders," adding that the West has been "preparing for the invasion of our land, including Crimea".

Mr Wallace bluntly denied that NATO and Western allies have ever planned to attack Russia.

"President Putin has made a number of 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 6% of his land border. That's not being surrounded if only 6% of your land border is NATO countries.

"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," he added.