Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said victory for Russia over Ukraine was “inevitable” as he hailed Russian soldiers’ heroism in a New Year’s video message. Moscow’s defence chief, who has been heavily criticised by pro-war voices in Russia for battlefield failures during the 10-month campaign, said the situation on the frontlines remained “difficult” and lambasted Ukraine and the West for trying to contain Russia. “We meet the New Year in a difficult military-political situation,” Shoigu said. “At a time when there are those who are trying to erase our glorious history and great achievements, demolish monuments to the victors over fascism, put war criminals on a pedestal, cancel and desecrate everything Russian.” With bloody fighting ongoing across the 1,000-km (600-mile) frontline, and Russia not having secured any territorial gains since the first months of the war, Shoigu told Russian soldiers: “Victory, like the New Year, is inevitable.” Shoigu also praised the “immortal actions, selfless courage and heroism” shown by Russian troops fighting what he called “neo-Nazism and terrorism”. Kyiv and the West have rejected Russia’s assertion it is fighting “Nazis” in Ukraine as a baseless pretext for President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to seize territory and topple Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a war of unprovoked aggression. Moscow had expected swift victory in what it calls a “special military operation”, but Ukraine’s spirited resistance and billions of dollars of Western arms have helped Kyiv turn the tide of the war and mount a series of stunning counteroffensives. Ukraine has now reclaimed more than half of the territory seized by Russia during the first weeks of its invasion.