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Ukraine and its allies are preparing for an urgent Russian attack in the eastern region of Donbass to deliver a military and propaganda triumph to the Kremlin in time for a prestigious annual parade on May 9.
Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, marking the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, are an annual symbolic display of national pride and are usually attended by President Vladimir Putin in Red Square.
This year’s parade will take place in the shadow of a Russian offensive in Ukraine which, after seven weeks of fighting, has so far failed to deliver the kind of quick wins that analysts believe Mr Putin was looking for.
Amid reports of heavy casualties and low morale among Russian troops, the invasion suffered another embarrassing setback on Thursday when Russia admitted to the sinking of its flagship missile cruiser. Moscow.
Ukraine says Russia has turned its attention to Donbass in an offensive that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an overnight speech was being carried out “as if they wanted only stones left”.
His head of diplomacy, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, recently informed his NATO colleagues that “Putin needs a trophy for May 9”, according to Luxembourger Jean Asselborn, one of the ministers present. .
Mr Putin “will do everything to liberate Donbass, as he sees it”, Mr Kuleba said. “Over the next three weeks, we will see something happen in the Donbass reminiscent of World War II.”
Russia is also continuing its assault on the southern city of Mariupol, the capture of which would create a land bridge between Russian-occupied territories in the Donbass and the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russia planned to declare victory in the city on May 9 if it could take control of the southern port by then – giving it something to celebrate on the date. politically significant.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a television interview during his re-election campaign that the previous weeks were unlikely to produce many concessions from Russia in its bid for peace talks with Ukraine.
“May 9 is a national holiday, an important military date and it is more or less certain that it must be a day of victory for President Putin,” said Mr Macron, who had long talks with the Russian leader. .
Parades commemorating Nazi Germany’s defeat could also be used to underscore the Kremlin’s rhetoric that it is “denazifying” Ukraine, a notion dismissed by Western powers as a false pretext for war.
Russian news agency Tass said parades in memory of fallen Soviet troops, known as Immortal Regiment marches, would be held in person again this year after two years of online events due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Similar marches could take place in “liberated Ukrainian territories” if safe, organizer Sergey Makarov said.
The main parade in Moscow usually involves tanks marching through Red Square in a display of Russian military might as Mr Putin addresses Soviet veterans and lays a wreath at the grave of an Unknown Soldier.
Analysts at the Rusi think tank said it ‘could be difficult’ for Russia to hold large-scale parades if its armed forces are busy with the invasion and suffer what Ukraine says are heavy losses .
A running tally released by Ukraine claims Russia lost nearly 20,000 troops in the 51-day war, along with 750 tanks, 160 planes, 140 helicopters and 120 multiple rocket launcher systems.
Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union when it defeated Nazi Germany, also celebrates Victory Day on May 9. But Mr Zelenskyy called for modesty at last year’s commemorations and said the day should pass without “euphoria or giddiness”.
“This is not a carnival, not a costume party, and certainly not a photo shoot of politicians in the uniform of an army with which they have nothing to do,” he said at the time.
Updated: April 15, 2022, 08:49