Putin may formally declare war on Ukraine on Monday

There is a lot of expectation about how Vladimir Putin’s government will behave this Monday, May 9. The date marks an important event for Russians, as it celebrates the day of victory against Nazism in World War II.

Usually, on the occasion, military parades take place in Red Square, in Moscow, and in other cities in the country, in an attempt to demonstrate power and reinforce the identity narratives of the Russian people.

This year, however, the date is accompanied by additional tension, since, in the context of the conflict with Ukraine, different pressures are imposed against Putin. The only consensus among experts so far is that the occasion will certainly serve as a government propaganda tool.

Rumors coming from Moscow indicate that in February, when Ukraine invaded, Putin had in mind that he could declare victory against that country on May 9. No wonder, therefore, the government would have sold the invasion as an attempt to “denazify” Ukraine, which would compose a logic with strong discursive and symbolic appeal.

Despite this, with the development of the conflict, which revealed difficulties in advancing the Russian armed forces and greater resilience of the Ukrainians, the plan had to be adapted. In the absence of major victories to celebrate, therefore, Putin would need to stick to other issues if he is to use the occasion for any purpose that suits him.

A first possibility would be to focus on celebrating specific achievements, such as the taking of Mariupol and the control of the Donbass region, indicating control of the situation and noting that the objectives of the “special military operation” would have been successfully achieved. Russia, therefore, would have won the dispute within a specific scope, and thus carried out the mission it had set itself from the beginning. All the rest, in this sense, would be presented as an elocution of ambitions hysterically propagated by the West, but without ballast in reality.

At the opposite extreme, a second scenario – this one suggested by Western authorities and which has gained ground in recent days – points to the possibility that the Kremlin is not only content to celebrate what it already has in its hands, but that it sees the event as an opportunity to expand its performance. In that case, speculation is that Russia could formally declare war on Ukraine, leaving behind the status adopted since the beginning of this crisis. The lack of progress, in this case, would push Putin into an even tougher offensive and into a new chapter of the conflict.

That scenario would involve increasing the president’s powers, which could include not only increasing combat recruitment, but also the eventual imposition of martial law in Russia, which replaced civil laws with military laws. In extreme cases, this could give Putin the prerogative to reorganize many aspects of society, including closing borders, controlling food supplies, confiscating private property, among other things. To this day, since the February 2022 invasion, Russian government spokespeople have consistently denied rumors involving the imposition of martial law.

All eyes on Moscow on May 9. See you

About Abhishek Pratap

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