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Independence Day on the Fourth of July is for Americans, but Victory Day on May 9 is a symbol of national pride for Russians. Some experts fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the holiday to declare victory in the war he has waged against Ukraine. They are concerned that he may be planning an even more brutal assault in order to achieve that by May 9. The significance of Victory Day and the impact it could have on the war in Ukraine was explained by an associate research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses.

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Independence Day on July 4 is for Americans and Victory Day on May 9 is for Russians. The victory of the Soviet Union in World War II is celebrated on the Russian national holiday.

The 77th anniversary of Victory Day comes at a time when Russia is fighting a war in Ukraine. There is a false claim that Putin wants to de-Nazify Russia.

The war the Kremlin may not have thought would be as difficult as it has become is also a war. Some experts and sources are of the opinion that Putin will want to use the upcoming holiday to declare victory in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which borders Russia, in order to launch an even more brutal assault on Ukraine in the days leading up to May 9.

The Center for Naval Analyses, a nonprofit research and analysis organization in Arlington, Va., spoke to Yahoo News about the significance of Victory Day and the impact it could have on the war in Ukraine. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

An armoured convoy of pro-Russian troops moves along a road during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Chingis Kondarov
An armoured convoy of pro-Russian troops moves along a road during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Chingis Kondarov

Why is May 9 Victory Day significant for Russia?

Victory Day is the most important secular holiday in Russia and was once celebrated across the whole of the Soviet Union. The legitimacy of the Soviet state and the identity of the vast majority of Soviet citizens who experienced that war were at stake.

It is a holiday that is significant both at the level of the state and at the level of civilizational strive, but also at the individual level, because everyone has grandparents and great-grandparents who fought, many who died over the course of World.

Since taking power, Victory Day has been emphasized more and more. There is a military procession in Moscow every year. This triumphal procession is very similar to how the Soviets celebrated Victory Day on May 9. Traditionally, this was a celebration in which ICBMs are going to be rolled across, massive groupings tank, lots of soldiers marching in lockstep. It is going to be read a lot more as a threat given the current tensions in the West.

Will May 9 affect the war in Ukraine?

Victory Day is unlikely to be a turning point in the war because the military reality on the ground is not going to correspond with an arbitrary calendar date. The General Staff of the Russian regime is trying as hard as they can to use Victory Day because of the symbolic resonance of the day. A lot of people talk about it being a mission-accomplished kind of moment. That's probably overstated, not that Russia isn't going to try to make a claim.

There will be victory claims, and they will be related to the ongoing war between Russia and the Ukranian. The new phase in the Donbas is very likely. That doesn't mean anything will change on the ground. It might push forward Russian efforts to try to get their pound of flesh, given that the battle of Kyiv has gone so poorly, and that the offensive is starting now, more or less. It is possible that there is a lot of pressure to show achievements, such as the capture of the territory in Ukraine. This or that person has been liberated.

That doesn't mean that the war is over. I don't think that's likely.

Is the war in Ukraine going to get even more violent?

Everything can always get worse. Military casualties are also very high, despite the notable atrocities and the hard-hitting actions on the part of the Russians. This is a bloody affair, war always is, and urban warfare is terrible.

The Russians have shown restraint in their use of their military equipment. Russian tactics have not been very nuanced. They have been more nuanced than they were in Syria. We have not seen the use of tactical nuclear weapons, biological, chemical weapons or carpet-bombing. It is possible to deploy thermobaric weapons regularly, indiscriminate rocket fire could be commonplace, and targeted on civilians in particular. The Russians have not done that, but there are exceptions.

Why is that happening? The original Russian goal was to not destroy Ukraine, but to engage in regime change to take back the mother of all Russian cities, and to protect the population from fascists. If that is your political goal, and all wars are fought for political reasons, you want to minimize how much it will cost to rebuild, and you also want to engender favorability among a population. Is that a success for them? Not really.

It should be emphasized that there has been restraint and that it might not look very restrained, given the terrible images coming out of places like the siege of Kharkiv or the destruction of Mariupol. These are terrible things. There has been restraint. Russia has a lot of things it can do, but it isn't doing all of them.

It seems unnecessary to escalate the war in terms of either the qualitative aspect of the war or the deep brutality, because there is no evidence or necessity at the moment.

Where does the war in Ukraine end?

For the Russian regime, the stakes are very high. The war is in its early stages, but it has failed in its political and territorial goals. It is likely to continue for a while. We have to keep in mind that it will be difficult to make predictions on how long the war will last, and in what ways it will evolve.

If the Russians are able to make a connection between captured territory in the south and captured territory in the Donbas, there will be no need for more fighting.

Regardless of whether Victory Day is used as a major symbolic distinguisher, parts of the Russian military are going to have to go into refit mode, to replenish supplies, to reorganize, to learn best practices, over the course of May. Things have not gone well on their own side. That means that a pause in part of the strategic theater of operations is likely to take place. It would be odd if it didn't.

The pause will allow the Ukrainians to replenish their supplies. It will allow them to bring more soldiers into key areas of the front. One of the problems for the Russian side is that every day they don't achieve their political objectives, the United States and other NATO allies are giving them more mat. We really want to make even more of a stamp, because every day is another day for Congress or national parliaments to get together and decide.

Problems can be caused if the Russian political designs extend beyond the immediate territorial stretch of the Donbas.

The next several weeks are going to be very decisive and bloody in the immediate dissection of the war. There will be a lull, at least in some stretches, by dint of necessity. We can look forward to a more interesting time later on in the summer, but it remains to be seen if negotiations go anywhere. It is possible that negotiations will begin after the conclusion of the offensive. Whether it ends before or after May 9th is up to you. We may get some hope. It might be false hope, but we might get a sense of back-to-the-table while the armies recuperate.

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