Putin may soon declare war on Ukraine, according to US and Western sources.
According to US and Western sources, Russian President Vladimir Putin might legally declare war on Ukraine as soon as May 9, allowing Russia to fully mobilize its reserve forces while invasion plans stall.
Inside Russia, May 9 is celebrated as “Victory Day,” commemorating the country’s defeat over the Nazis in 1945. Western officials have long assumed that Putin would use the symbolic importance and propaganda value of that day to proclaim either a military victory in Ukraine or a significant escalation of hostilities – or both.
Officials have begun to focus on one possibility, in which Putin launches war on Ukraine on May 9. To this day, Putin has insisted on referring to the terrible months-long fight as a “special military operation,” thereby prohibiting words like invasion and war from being used.
“I think he’ll want to shift away from his special operation, ” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said last week on LBC Radio. “He’s been creating the groundwork for the day when he can say, ‘Look, this is now a battle against Nazis, and what I need is more people.’ I require additional Russian gun fodder.'”
Throughout the crisis, Putin has repeatedly characterized his invasion of Ukraine – a country with a Jewish president – as a campaign of alleged “denazification,” a phrase that historians and political analysts alike have ridiculed.
Wallace went on to say that he “would not be shocked, and I have no knowledge on this, that he is probably going to proclaim on this May Day that ‘we are now at war with the world’s Nazis, and we need to mass organize the Russian people.”
A formal declaration of war on May 9 might boost popular support for the invasion. It would also empower Putin to deploy reserve forces and recruit conscripts, which authorities say Russia sorely needs to be given the country’s rising manpower shortfall. According to Western and Ukrainian sources, at least 10,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the conflict since Russia entered a little over two months ago.
‘Anemic’ Russian battlefield effort Following a string of military and logistical losses, Moscow has refocused its efforts on the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, which has been at the forefront of the Russia-Ukraine war since 2014. However, a US source branded Russia’s war effort in Syria as “anaemic” on Monday.
“They’ll march in, announce victory, and then remove their soldiers, only to have the Ukrainians retake it,” a Pentagon official told reporters at a briefing.
According to the official, difficulties that have plagued the Russian military since their initial push have yet to be resolved.
“They continue to suffer from inadequate command and control, low morale in many units, and less-than-ideal logistics,” the person added.
According to the official, Russian forces were also careful to minimize risks that may result in further fatalities to their already reduced forces, characterizing the ground combat in the region as “extremely cautious, very tepid.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces were making great success in driving Russian forces back near Kharkiv, which is located at the northwestern point of the Donbas area, according to the source.
“A great effort there that, again, hasn’t garnered a lot of headlines or attention, but it’s just another element of the tough Ukrainian resistance that they continue to exhibit,” added the official.
Putin’s other alternatives for May 9 With less than a week until the May 9 Victory Day, Moscow may search for ways to make a message other than in Donbas.
Other alternatives include annexing the separatist republics of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, making a big drive for Odesa in the south, or claiming complete authority over Mariupol, Ukraine’s southern port city.
According to US Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter, the US has “very reliable” intelligence assessments that Russia would try to annex Luhansk and Donetsk “sometime around mid-May.” There are also rumors that Russia intends to create an annex a “people’s republic” in the southern city of Kherson.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department, said on Monday that there is “strong reason to anticipate that the Russians would do all they can to utilize” May 9 for propaganda objectives.
“We’ve seen the Russians really ramp up their propaganda operations, almost definitely to distract from their tactical and strategic failures on the battlefield in Ukraine,” Price said during a State Department briefing.
“It would be a great irony if Moscow used the occasion of ‘Victory Day’ to declare war, which in itself would allow them to surge conscripts in a way they’re not able to do now, in a way that would be tantamount to revealing to the world that their war effort is failing, that they are floundering in their military campaign and military objectives,” Price added.
“I’m convinced we’ll hear more from Moscow in the run-up to May 9,” Price added. “I’m convinced you’ll hear more from the United States, from our partners, from our NATO colleagues, in the run-up to May 9.”