The West is on alert ahead of Victory in Russia Day, celebrated on May 9, which marks the end of World War II and the defeat of the Nazi regime by the Soviet Union. Rumor has it that Moscow intends to officially declare war on Ukraine, despite the Kremlin’s denials, and is planning a military parade in Mariupol.
The commemorations of the date with a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square take on particular symbolism this year. With the war in Ukraine, fewer tanks and military equipment are expected to participate in the traditional event. The patriotic fervor, however, must be the same as ever. In 2022, Victory Day will not just honor the conflict that ended 77 years ago. Many Russians will be thinking about the troops fighting in the neighboring country, and the invasion of Ukraine must not go unnoticed by the Russian government.
Russian soldier patrols the port of Mariupol on April 29 — Photo: AFP/Andrey Borodulin
In recent weeks, the secret services of several Western countries have indicated that the Kremlin would like to celebrate May 9 with a major victory in the war in Ukraine. After a failed attempt to invade Kiev and other major cities in northern Ukraine, the Russian government shifted the focus of the conflict, moving troops to the Donbass region, where pro-Russian separatist rebels have been fighting Ukraine’s military since 2014 – a conflict that erupted. after the annexation of Crimea by Moscow.
However, in recent days, Russian authorities have been deflating expectations about a great military success until Victory Day, although they have not refrained from celebrating the date with the pomp and circumstance of other years – with the traditional military parade in Moscow to expose the military might. Even during the pandemic, the festivities were not cancelled, just postponed.
Russian soldiers march in the 2018 Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, on Red Square in Moscow (Photo: Maxim Shipenkov/Pool via Reuters)
The Kremlin has refused to call the offensive in Ukraine a war and uses the term “special military operation”, claiming it was necessary to defend Russian speakers in the region. Western politicians and observers believe Russian President Vladimir Putin will use the date to officially declare war on the neighboring country and reinforce Russia’s national commitment to the invasion.
This Wednesday (05/04) Moscow denied this intention. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that speculation about the decision of a national mobilization was absurd.
In this May 2, 1945 file photo, Soviet soldiers raise the red flag over the Reichstag after the fall of Berlin, one of the iconic images of World War II taken by renowned photographer Yevgeny Khaldei — Photo: Yevgeny Khaldei/iTAR-TASS file photo via AP
The 9th of May is one of the most important holidays in Russia and commemorates the massive Soviet effort to defeat Nazi Germany. An estimated 27 million Soviet citizens were killed in World War II. The conflict devastated several regions of the Soviet Union, caused great suffering and left a deep scar on the national psyche.
On May 8, 1945, the Allies defeated the Nazi regime, marking the end of World War II. In countries under the influence of the former Soviet Union, from 1967 onwards, Victory Day began to be celebrated on May 9, the date of the capitulation of the Nazi forces to Soviet troops, and became a public holiday. Most western European countries celebrate Victory Day on May 8th.
The celebration has been used by politicians and the Kremlin to encourage patriotic pride and underline Russia’s role as a global power. In previous years, Putin used the date to incite the West and show the firepower of Russian troops. Tanks, fighter jets and intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads are displayed at the military parade in Moscow.
This year, Putin has promised a parade with more than 10,000 troops, 62 fighter planes and 15 war helicopters. During the ceremony, eight Mig-29 fighter planes must write the letter Z in the sky, a symbol adopted by supporters of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Several analysts say that Putin should still use the occasion to reinforce his narrative of a leader who was forced to engage in a war to protect the interests of the Russian-speaking population.
Military parade in Mariupol
Victory Day is celebrated by most republics that belonged to the Soviet Union, as well as several countries that were under its influence. This year, because of the war in Ukraine, several countries are planning more modest and discreet celebrations.
A Russian military parade is being organized in Mariupol, according to Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian Military Information Service, the deputy director of the Russian presidential administration Sergei Kirienko is in town to prepare the parade.
In a statement, Ukrainian authorities say the city will be one of the centers of the celebrations. “Main avenues are urgently cleared, debris and bodies of the dead, as well as unexploded ordnance, will be removed.” Russian viewers will see reports of the “joy” of Mariupol residents when the Russians arrived in their town, the text adds.
Drone shows Azovstal steel mill and devastated port city in Mariupol
According to the Ukrainian service, “a large-scale propaganda campaign is underway” among the city’s population, now estimated by the authorities at between 100,000 and 120,000 inhabitants, up from almost half a million before the war.
Situated on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol is one of the main goals of the Russians in the effort to gain full control of the Donbass region and form a land corridor in eastern Ukraine from the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014. The city it is almost entirely under the control of the Russian army. Only the huge Azovstal metallurgical complex, where the last Ukrainian fighters and some civilians are entrenched, has not yet been completely taken over by Moscow’s forces.