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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s emphasis on the May 9 Victory Day celebration has raised concerns that Moscow may order additional or enhanced military action in Ukraine.
For weeks, the State Department has also been telling Americans in Russia to leave, and officials at the US Embassy in Moscow have issued a new warning ahead of the May 9 observance.
“Local authorities will restrict travel to event areas to facilitate rehearsals for the event,” the notice reads. “In the past, there has been an increased police presence around these events. Given the ongoing tensions, American citizens should avoid large public gatherings. Smaller VE Day events are expected across Russia. The Embassy may not always be aware of the exact time and location of these events in advance.”
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Victory of Russia Day celebrates the triumph of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in World War II. In 2021, Putin used the event to warn that Russia’s enemies were once again following “much of the ideology of the Nazis”, a rallying cry he repeated throughout his invasion of Ukraine, which he promised to “denazify”.
The Russian military held a rehearsal on Wednesday for the May 9 celebration, featuring 62 military aircraft bearing the now famous “Z” symbol that appeared on tanks and other vehicles during the invasion. The incredibly public and widespread celebration provides Putin with a platform to make a big announcement, with some analysts saying he could launch a wider offensive or all-out war in Ukraine – escalating from “the special military operation “.
An all-out war initiative would also allow Putin to call up conscripts and deploy reserves on the ground as he strives to completely conquer the Donbass region and secure control of vital port cities. He could also use the event to officially recognize breakaway states in the region, according to former DIA intelligence officer Rebekah Koffler.
“Putin will probably orchestrate a referendum in Luhansk and Donetsk, in the next 1-2 days, whose population will probably vote to join Russia,” Koffler, author of “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America,” said. at Fox News Digital. . “It will be part of Putin’s victory that he will claim on May 9, at the World War II Victory Day Parade, a major event.”
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A move to total war would require Russia to mobilize the entire state apparatus, including the military, economy and state administration for months or even years, he said. -she adds.
Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov has denied any allegations of plans to invoke a “full mobilization” of Russia’s war machine on Victory Day. Some experts say Moscow’s denial is an effort to mask its next move, and the May 9 date still retains its significance.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban assured Pope Francis this week that Putin actually plans to end the invasion of Ukraine by May 9, with the pope saying he remains ‘pessimistic’ about holding of that promise by Russia, The Times of Israel reported.
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In the past, the day served as an occasional reminder of Soviet glory during the Cold War and was revived by President Boris Yeltsin to mark the 50th anniversary in 1995, according to the BBC. Putin has placed a renewed emphasis on the day, using it as a platform to display Russia’s resurgent military might with annual parades.
“Even in a normal year, this is a huge display of Russian strength, Putin’s control and everything he stands for,” Ammon Cheskin from the University of Glasgow told the BBC. “And it’s just amplified this year.”
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia broadcast the names of Russian dead on state television as the military conducted a warplane flyby over Moscow. Residents stayed home due to health issues.
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But any other year, the day would see a massive parade and dignitaries from various states in attendance, China, Germany and the United States, according to the New York Times. This year will see a more isolated Russia celebrate its own military – the same forces that have endured a brutal and often demoralizing invasion in Ukraine over the past two months.
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