Russia Racing Against Clock to Win Ukraine War Before May 9 'Victory Day'

Russia has an approaching deadline that will add urgency to its campaign in Ukraine over the coming three weeks, the British defense ministry said.

In its daily intelligence update on the Russian invasion, U.K. defense officials said that Moscow wants big military gains before its annual commemoration of the end of World War II on May 9.

The commemoration of the USSR's role in defeating Nazi Germany is celebrated across Russia, where World War II is known as the Great Patriotic War.

The Soviet role in World War II is a rallying point for President Vladimir Putin, especially as one of the justifications for his invasion of Ukraine was to defeat "neo-Nazis," a reason rejected by Kyiv and the international community.

The U.K. defense ministry said Moscow "likely desires to demonstrate significant successes ahead of their annual 9th May Victory Day celebrations."

"This could affect how quickly and forcefully they attempt to conduct operations in the run-up to this date."

Russian forces are now advancing in the eastern Donbas region as part of a renewed offensive after failing to take Kyiv.

The assessment by British defense officials said that there have been high levels of Russian air activity to support its offensive in eastern Ukraine and that Russian forces aimed "to suppress and destroy Ukrainian air defense capabilities."

It also said Russian forces were advancing from staging areas in the eastern Donbas region towards Kramatorsk, "which continues to suffer from persistent rocket attacks."

The city was the scene of a missile strike on a railway station being used to evacuate people. Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelensky called the strike, which killed at least 50 people, a "war crime."

Last month, the general staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russian propaganda is pointing toward a push to end the war before May 9, when extravagant displays of Russian military hardware and personnel take place in Moscow's Red Square.

Russian state television reported this week that there would be a flyover of jets forming the letter "Z," which has become the Russian symbol of its invasion.

However, Michael Kofman, the director of Russia Studies at CNA, said that while it was true Russia was "desperate to show results" by May 9, "I am skeptical that they are going to be able to take Donbas by then, if at all.

"They are looking for [...]wins that they can use politically," he told the War on the Rocks podcast on April 11.

Russia's new constitution, passed in July 2020, which gives Putin the chance to stay in power until 2036, also protected the "historical truth" of the war and banned any "belittling" of the feats of those who fought.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for comment.

Russia May Day rehearsal
Russian paratroopers during the rehearsals for the Victory Day Military Parade at the polygon, on April 18, 2022 in Alabino, outside of Moscow. The British defense ministry says that Russia wants to see "significant successes" ahead of the annual May 9 celebration marking the end of World War Two. Getty Images