The invasion of Ukraine means fewer Russian tanks and other military equipment will roar through Moscow’s Red Square on Monday as the country celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

This year’s Victory Day will not only honor a conflict that ended 77 years ago. Many Russians will think of the thousands of soldiers battles in neighboring Ukraine. Signs of military support have risen across the country since the invasion began on February 24, with the letter “Z” appearing on billboards and signs in streets and subways, as well as on television and social media.

The Kremlin has refused to call the fighting in Ukraine a “war” instead, calling it a “special military operation.” Some observers have suggested that President Vladimir Putin could use the holiday to finally declare the operation a war to bolster Russia’s national commitment.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the allegations as “nonsense” on Wednesday.

War and memory

The Soviet Union lost an incredible 27 million people in World War II, which he called the Great Patriotic War. The conflict, which devastated cities and provinces, caused great suffering and left a deep mark on the national psyche.

Victory Day is a rare event in the nation’s divisive post-Soviet history that is revered by all political players, and the Kremlin uses that sentiment to promote patriotic pride and emphasize Russia’s role as a global power.

The annual celebrations include a massive military parade in Red Square, showcasing the latest weapons from tanks to fighter jets to intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.

This year, the range of weapons that will be displayed at the parade has been significantly reduced compared to last year, clearly reflecting the heavy military commitment in Ukraine.

In ordering the invasion, Putin said it was aimed at “demilitarizing” Ukraine to remove the alleged military threat to Russia from “neo-Nazis” – rhetoric condemned by Ukraine and the West as a fictitious cover for a brutal act of aggression.

To support the claim, Putin and his officials praised Ukraine’s right-wing groups of nationalist leaders Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevich, who sided with the Nazis during World War II and the alleged use of Nazi symbols. .

The rhetoric was also used by the Kremlin to try to boost public support for the war amid heavy losses of troops and equipment, as well as huge economic damage from Western sanctions.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, a Jew, scoffs at the Kremlin’s allegation of “denazification.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded by drawing a parallel between Zelensky and Adolf Hitler, a statement that drew sharp criticism from Israel.

To hurry with the offensive?

Some in Ukraine and the West expected Putin to try to make quick profits before the May 9 holiday in a possible attempt to present it as a decisive victory and use it as a way out of what increasingly looks like a catastrophic quagmire that bleeds Russia’s resources and threatening its stability.

After an unsuccessful attempt to storm Kyiv and other major cities in northern Ukraine in the early stages of the war, the Kremlin has shifted its focus to the eastern industrial center known as Donbass, where Moscow-backed rebels have fought Ukrainian government forces ever since. 2014. This conflict erupted weeks after the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula by Russia.

The Russian military rearmed and supplied its forces withdrawn from Kyiv and moved them to Donbass in an apparent attempt to encircle and destroy the most capable and experienced Ukrainian troops stationed there.

But this offensive in the east faced a staunch Ukrainian defense and made only gradual progress, shattering the Kremlin’s hopes of a quick victory. Significant profits seem almost impossible before May 9.

In an interview this week, Lavrov said: “Our army will not artificially link its actions to any date, including Victory Day.”

Raise the rate

Some hardliners in Russia have criticized the Kremlin for using only limited force and called for mobilization efforts across the country. Some Western officials and observers believe Putin could use May 9 to officially declare war and declare full mobilization to increase the number of troops on the offensive.

Russian authorities say only volunteer contract soldiers are fighting in Ukraine, although many servicemen were taken prisoner in the early days of the war.

The Russian army has about 1 million troops – 400,000 of them contract soldiers, including 147,000 in the ground forces. Western officials have estimated the initial strength of Russian forces to invade about 180,000 people.

The military acknowledged that it had lost 1,351 troops as of March 25 and has not updated its casualties since. Western officials said Russia’s losses were much heavier and estimated that up to a quarter of Moscow’s original attacking forces had become unfit for battle.

If the war drags on, the current number of Russian troops in Ukraine may be insufficient to sustain operations, forcing the Kremlin to rely on poorly trained troops or call in reservists.

The Kremlin is faced with a clear choice between trying to win the war with limited forces or trying to support its troops in Ukraine with troops and reservists, a move that could provoke public outrage and potentially destabilize the political situation.

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