Russian President Vladimir Putin could officially declare war on Ukraine as early as May 9, allowing the full mobilization of Russian reserve forces as they attempt to conquer eastern and southern Ukraine, experts believe. American and Western officials.
May 9, known as Russia’s “Victory Day,” commemorates the Russians’ defeat by the Nazis in 1945. Western officials have long believed that Putin would capitalize on the symbolic significance and propaganda value this day to announce either a military achievement in Ukraine or a major escalation of hostilities – or both.
Officials began to focus on one scenario, namely Putin officially declaring war on Ukraine on May 9. To date, Russian officials have insisted that the conflict was just a “special military operation” with “denazification” as its central goal.
“I think he’s going to try and get out of his ‘special operation,'” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said. told LBC radio Last week. “He drove around, setting the stage so he could say ‘look, it’s now a war against the Nazis, and what I need is more people. I need more Russian cannon fodder.
Wallace added that he “wouldn’t be surprised, and I have no information on this, that he’s probably going to declare this May Day that ‘we are now at war with the Nazis of the world and we must massively mobilize the Russians.'”
More context: An official declaration of war on May 9 could galvanize Russian citizens and raise popular opinion in favor of the invasion. It would also, under Russian law, allow Putin to mobilize reserve forces and recruit conscripts, which officials say Russia desperately needs amid growing labor shortages. Western and Ukrainian officials have estimated that at least 10,000 Russian troops have been killed in the war since the Russian invasion just over two months ago.
Other options for May 9 include annexing the breakaway territories of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, a major push towards Odessa in the south, or declaring full control of the southern port city of Mariupol. .
The United States has “highly credible” intelligence reports that Russia will attempt to annex Lugansk and Donetsk “in mid-May”, US Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter said on Monday. There are also indications that Russia may be considering declaring and annexing a “people’s republic” in the southeastern city of Kherson.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that there was “good reason to believe that the Russians will do whatever they can to use” May 9 for propaganda purposes.
We have seen the Russians redouble their propaganda efforts, probably, almost certainly, as a way to distract from their tactical and strategic failures on the battlefield in Ukraine,” Price said during a department briefing. of state.
Price added that he had “seen the speculation that Russia might officially declare war” on May 9 and said: “It would be a great irony if Moscow took the opportunity of ‘Victory Day’ to declare war, which in itself would allow them to increase conscripts in a way that they are not able to do now, in a way that would reveal to the world that their war effort is failing, that they wade through their military campaign and their military objectives.”
“I’m absolutely confident we’ll hear more from Moscow before May 9,” Price added. “I have no doubt that you will hear more from the United States, from our partners, including our NATO partners, as May 9 approaches as well.”