It’s parade day in Moscow with earlier parades many time zones away on the other side of Russia, which continued its indiscriminate bombardment of eastern Ukraine while planning for its Victory Day holiday. There is some speculation that Putin may put the entire nation on a war footing, declaring mobilization as well as annexing the Donbas republics. New sanctions have been announced as well as new efforts at propaganda.
“They transformed this unifying myth that Russia had into a justification for an actual war,” said Maxim Trudolyubov, a Russian journalist who has written about the issue. “It’s kind of subtly turned everything upside down — a cult of victory into a cult of war.”
Mr. Trudolyubov points to the use of May 9 for the creeping militarization of Russian society. Schoolchildren in some places dress up in World War II military garb, and war movies extol the idea that Russia’s battles were always righteous. A popular World War II bumper sticker reads “We can do it again.” In 2020 the government opened the army green Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces outside Moscow, its dome 1,945 centimeters across and its floor made from melted-down German tanks.
Mr. Trudolyubov acknowledges that he and many others missed how much the Kremlin’s obsession with May 9 was readying Russian society for a real war, rather than just mobilizing support for Mr. Putin. Even to many of Mr. Putin’s critics in Russia, he reflects, the veneration of the Soviet victory provided a “convenient way of thinking about ourselves as being on the right side of history.”
“They apparently did not just use that, as I thought was the case, as a tactic, as a political campaigning kind of mechanism,” Mr. Trudolyubov said. “They turned theatrical and imaginary re-enactments into an actual land offensive, with all the physical tanks and guns and troops.”
Mr. Putin is expected to give a major speech at the grand military parade on Red Square on Monday, with some analysts and Western officials anticipating he may officially declare war or call for a mass mobilization of the Russian public. On Sunday, the Kremlin said that Mr. Putin had sent a congratulatory telegram to the heads of the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine; he declared that Russians were “fighting shoulder to shoulder to liberate their homeland from Nazi filth” and vowed that “victory will be ours, like in 1945.”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany vowed Sunday to continue supporting Ukraine and denounced Vladimir V. Putin for likening the Russian invasion to the World War Soviet battle against the Nazis.
“President Putin equates his barbaric war of aggression with the fight against National Socialism,” Mr. Scholz said in a speech commemorating Nazi Germany’s May 8 surrender in 1945. “This is falsifying history and defamatory. It is our duty to say this clearly.”
“The thing that sticks out to me is how much control Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu wants over the narrative of the military,” Rand Corp. senior policy researcher Dara Massicot said. “If you cannot have a transparent conversation about your serviceability rates, about how proficient your soldiers are or about how old some of your field rations are — if you can’t have some of those debates, the battlefield will show you.”
The Russian military that Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, built can generate a certain amount of military strength on short notice but ultimately needs a mobilization to obtain additional manpower to fight a major war, said Michael Kofman, a Russian military analyst at the Virginia-based research group CNA, who remains puzzled why they agreed to launch a full invasion of Ukraine without a mobilization.
“Shoigu built a military that looked good in scripted exercises, and proved effective in limited wars, but when thrown into a large conflict, showed that it couldn’t scale operations and revealed the extent of rot in the system,” Kofman said.
- Russian forces are likely amassing in Belgorod to reinforce Russian efforts in northern Kharkiv to prevent the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive from pushing closer to the Ukraine-Russia border.
- Russian forces near Izyum focused on regrouping, replenishing, and reconnoitering Ukrainian positions in order to continue advances to the southwest and southeast of Izyum.
- Russian forces continued their ground attacks to drive to the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts but did not make any territorial gains
- Russian troops continued to assault the Azovstal Steel Plant and advanced efforts to economically integrate occupied Mariupol into the wider Russian economy.
Russian troops may be preparing for a renewed offensive on the Southern Axis but are unlikely to be successful in this endeavor.
Main effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and four supporting efforts);
- Subordinate main effort- Encirclement of Ukrainian troops in the cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts
- Supporting effort 1—Mariupol;
- Supporting effort 2—Kharkiv City;
- Supporting effort 3—Southern axis;
- Supporting effort 4—Sumy and northeastern Ukraine.
Immediate items to watch
- Russian forces will likely continue to merge offensive efforts southward of Izyum with westward advances from Donetsk in order to encircle Ukrainian troops in southern Kharkiv Oblast and Western Donetsk.
- Russia may change the status of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, possibly by merging them into a single “Donbas Republic” and/or by annexing them directly to Russia.
- Russian forces have apparently decided to seize the Azovstal plant through ground assault and will likely continue operations accordingly.
- Ukrainian counteroffensives around Kharkiv City are pushing back Russian positions northeast of the city and will likely continue to force the Russians to reinforce those positions at the cost of reinforcing Russian offensive operations elsewhere.
- Russian forces may be preparing to conduct renewed offensive operations to capture the entirety of Kherson Oblast in the coming days.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy: It's a special Mother's Day. Burned by war, but with a hot heart, great inner strength, faith and heroism of Ukrainian mothers. Each of you has accomplished a feat for the sake of your children, for the sake of Ukraine. Honor and gratitude to you! Happy Holidays!
The U.S. government was so pleased with its swift seizure of a Russian oligarch’s 255-foot yacht on the Mediterranean island of Majorca last month that it posted a video on YouTube of the moment F.B.I. agents and Spanish authorities clambered up the gangplank. The $90 million yacht owned by Viktor Vekselberg, called the Tango, was the government’s first big prize in a campaign against billionaires with close ties to the Kremlin.
The Tango is just a sliver of the $1 billion in yachts, planes and artwork — not to mention hundreds of millions in cash — that the United States has identified as belonging to wealthy allies of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, since the invasion of Ukraine. U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui, who approved the seizure, called the pursuit of the yacht by a new Justice Department team called task force kleptocapture “just the beginning of the reckoning that awaits those who would facilitate Putin’s atrocities.”
The reckoning may take a while.
Seizing assets, whether a yacht or a bank account, is the easy part. To permanently confiscate them, the government must usually navigate a potentially cumbersome process known as civil forfeiture, which requires proving to a judge that the assets were obtained from the proceeds of a crime or through money laundering. Only then does the government actually own the assets, and have the power to liquidate them.
All that can take years, especially if the former owner is inclined to fight the forfeiture action in court.
Hoping to speed things up — and quickly get the proceeds from seized assets turned over to the Ukrainian government — the White House announced a plan last week that would make it easier for U.S. authorities to go after some oligarch assets through an administrative procedure led by the Treasury Department.