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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Putin claims the West was ‘preparing for the invasion of our land’

Russian honour guards march on Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on May 9, 2022.

Kirill Kudryavtsev | Afp | Getty Images

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has attempted to justify his unprecedented invasion of Ukraine on “Victory Day” — one of the most important events on the country’s national calendar.

The West was “preparing for the invasion of our land, including Crimea,” Putin said without providing evidence, according to a Reuters translation. He added that NATO was creating threats at Russia’s borders.

Speaking before a massive parade of troops, tanks and military hardware in Moscow, Putin also doubled down on Russia’s strategy of focusing on the eastern Donbass region.

“You are fighting for your Motherland, its future,” he said to pro-Russian separatist fighters, based in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas of the region.

After initially targeting the north, east and south of Ukraine in its invasion, Russia switched its strategy and objectives in late March after making few territorial gains.

It announced it was withdrawing from areas around Kyiv and the north and would instead focus on the “liberation” of the Donetsk and Luhansk areas.

Russia launched an unprecedented invasion of its neighbor Ukraine on Feb. 24, after amassing some 190,000 troops on the borders in the weeks before. There was little evidence of military aggression from Ukraine toward Russia, and Moscow’s claims to the contrary were seen by many as a pretext for justifying the invasion.

— Katrina Bishop

Russia prepares for ‘Victory Day’ parades across the country

Topol-M mobile launchers of intercontinental ballistic missiles on the streets of Moscow during a Victory Day parade rehearsal. The final night rehearsal is one of the main runs before the actual event scheduled for May 9.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Russia is set to hold its massive “Victory Day” military parades on Monday, with 28 Russian cities set to hold military marches to mark the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Over 65,000 people will take part in them and about 2,400 armament and material units will be presented, Russia news agency Tass reported. The largest parade is held in Moscow and is expected to be presided over by President Vladimir Putin.

In a recorded speech to Group of Seven leaders Sunday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that while May 8 (Victory in Europe Day) “was a key day of remembrance for all the victims of World War II, for the fragility of peace and the inadmissibility of any anti-humanist regimes. But what is remembrance for others today, for our people is, unfortunately, just news, every day.”

He said a Russian bomb had killed 60 civilians in a village in Luhansk, saying the victims were hiding from shelling in a school which was attacked by a Russian air strike.

He said Russia was imitating “precisely the evil that the Nazis brought to Europe.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine ambassador to the U.S.: ‘We are preparing for everything’ ahead of Russia’s ‘Victory Day’

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. said Sunday that the nation is making preparations ahead of Russia’s Victory Day.

Russian officers march during a rehearsal of the Victory Day parade on May 7, 2022 in Moscow, Russia.

Tiang Bin | China News Service | Getty Images

“We know that there are no red lines for the regime in Moscow, so we are preparing for everything,” Oksana Markarova said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“We can count that Putin and imperialistic Russia will do everything bad they can possibly try to do. The question is, are we all prepared — the civilized world — to do everything possible to defend our democracy and freedom,” she said.

Monday’s “Victory Day” is a key date for Russia. It marks the then-Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II in 1945.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to make a speech tomorrow, with massive military parades through the center of Moscow also expected.

— Pippa Stevens, Holly Ellyatt

Jill Biden pays surprise visit to Ukraine, meets first lady

First lady Jill Biden receives flowers from Olena Zelenska, spouse of Ukrainian’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, outside of School 6, a public school that has taken in displaced students in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, Sunday, May 8, 2022.

Susan Walsh | AP

U.S. first lady Jill Biden made an unannounced visit to western Ukraine, holding a surprise Mother’s Day meeting with the nation’s first lady, Olena Zelenskyy, as Russia presses its punishing war in the eastern regions.

Biden traveled under the cloak of secrecy, becoming the latest high-profile American to enter Ukraine during its 10-week-old conflict with Russia.

U.S. first lady Jill Biden meets with Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, at School 6, a public school that has taken in displaced students in Uzhhorod, Slovakia, May 8, 2022.

Susan Walsh | Reuters

Her visit follows recent stops in the war-torn country by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress, as well as a joint trip by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

The first lady traveled by vehicle to the town of Uzhhorod from a Slovakian village that borders Ukraine.

— The Associated Press

Dozens feared dead after bomb hits school in Luhansk region

Ukrainian soldiers carry the coffins of Yuri Samofalov, Yuriy Varyanytsya and Alexander Malevsky, 3 Ukrainian soldiers who fallen during the fights against Russia as they arrive at the Church of the Most Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Lviv, Ukraine on May 06, 2022.

Omar Marques | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, said Sunday that at least two people had died after the bombing of a school.

Haidai said, according to a Reuters translation, that the bombing occurred Saturday afternoon where 90 people had been sheltering. He said 30 had been rescued with around 60 still likely to be under the debris and feared dead.

Luhansk is one of the two regions that make up the Donbas — in the east of Ukraine — where Russian troops are now concentrating their efforts.

The Associated Press added that the school was located in the village of Bilogorivka. Rescue work is ongoing.

NBC News was not able to independently verify the reports.

“The fire was extinguished after nearly four hours, then the rubble was cleared, and, unfortunately, the bodies of two people were found,” Haidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app, according to Sky News.

“Thirty people were evacuated from the rubble, seven of whom were injured. Sixty people were likely to have died under the rubble of buildings.” 

—Matt Clinch

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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