Russia will hold a parade in Moscow’s Red Square on Monday to celebrate Victory Day, its annual commemoration of the end of World War II. Under normal circumstances, the day is a major event in Russia, but the country’s setbacks in the ongoing war in Ukraine could cast a shadow over this year’s festivities.
Western intelligence-based reports have suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the occasion of Victory Day to formally declare war on Ukraine, thereby increasing his military efforts. Earlier in the conflict, UK defense officials said Moscow expected substantial military gains by May 9, but those targets have not been met.
Several Russian officials have publicly admitted that the war is not going as well as the Kremlin had hoped. The country’s armed forces have been plagued by low troop morale, in addition to suffering heavy casualties and strategic setbacks.
“Russia is doing poorly,” said Jonathan Katz, director of Democracy Initiatives and a senior fellow at the US German Marshall Fund, recently. news week. “The [Putin] He doesn’t have much to show for it on the battlefield.”
On May 4, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Putin had made a declaration of war against Ukraine on Victory Day. If the Russian leader does not actually make any announcements about tactical changes, he may use the occasion to boost morale for war.
“The date of May 9 for the Russians is historically very important, and Putin is trying to intertwine this past victory in World War II with what he is doing in Ukraine,” Katz said.
Regardless of what Putin does or doesn’t do on Monday, early reports indicate that Russia plans to tone down celebrations for this year’s Victory Day parade. Data released by the Russian Defense Ministry shows that the parade will be curtailed from 2021. The ministry reported that there will be 129 units of military equipment on Red Square on May 9, while 191 military vehicles took part last year.
The ministry also said around 10,000 civilians will take part in this year’s parade, compared to 12,000 last year. Meanwhile, Russian state media RIA Novosti reported that more than 11,000 soldiers are expected to march, down from the 12,000 soldiers who marched in 2021.
Last month, Putin sought to address some of his army’s failures in Ukraine by appointing a new top commander in the military campaign. US officials confirmed that General Aleksandr Dvornikov took command of Russian forces in Ukraine in April.
When asked about the new commander, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on April 11: “Our view is that even a change in personnel or leadership at the top will not erase the fact that this is a strategic failure for Russia.”