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Why the 9th of May is a key date for the conflict between Russia and Ukraine

Veículos blindados militares russos durante o desfile militar do Dia da Vitória na Praça Vermelha em Moscou, Rússia, 09 de maio de 2021. A Rússia realiza seu desfile do Dia da Vitória anualmente em 09 de maio para marcar a rendição da Alemanha nazista em 1945.

Russian military armored vehicles during the Victory Day military parade on Red Square in Moscow, Russia, 09 from May of 2021. Russia holds its Victory Day parade annually in May to mark the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.

| Photo: EFE/EPA/YURI KOCHETKOV

Russia has resumed the offensive in the war in Ukraine. After the shameful loss of the Black Sea flagship and the Russian army being stopped at the gates of the capital Kiev, Russian forces are close to completely taking over the port city of Mariupol. This would open up several possibilities on the front. The offensive, however, supposedly runs out of time, which could jeopardize Russia’s plans.

Until the beginning of the war, Mariupol was the largest Ukrainian port on the Sea of ​​Azov, internal to the Black Sea. The verb in the past tense is justified by the fact that the city is completely destroyed after weeks of siege and fighting in its streets. The city, birthplace of the infamous Azov Battalion, is in the oblast

of Donetsk, recognized as independent by the Putin government on the last day of 09 of February.

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According to the latest information, the Ukrainian resistance is reduced and concentrated in only a few places. In the last week, more than a thousand Ukrainian marines would have surrendered, already without provisions and ammunition, given the siege of the city. The last defenders, however, declared that they will not surrender, saying that the images of the dead seen in the north of the country would be a “warning” of the consequences of surrender.

The city, today, is no longer the prize of war it would have been two months ago. The destruction even affected part of its most important infrastructure, such as factories and the port. Still, it fulfills a strategic role. It is the last obstacle preventing a direct link between Russian forces in the south, in Crimea, and forces in the east, in Donbass. The terrestrial connection would allow better transit of supplies and forces.

The taking Mariupol would also allow all Russian forces in the east to focus on the offensive in the Donbass region. According to intelligence analysts, the Russian strategy is to carry out a double offensive, one in the north-south direction and the other in the opposite direction. Upon meeting, Russian forces would surround some of the main units of the Ukrainian army, concentrated in the so-called “line of contact”.

Offensive on Donbass

In a statement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that “Russian forces have started the battle for Donbass for which they have been preparing for a long time and a considerable amount of Russian forces are concentrated and focused on this offensive. ”. Everything indicates that the next few weeks will be one of fierce fighting and, unfortunately, more images like the ones already known: destruction of cities, civilians on the run and reports of possible atrocities.

There is also the expectation of the Russian government that the offensive will be successful before the 9th of May, the Victory Day, the date that celebrates victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. For the Russians, the Great Patriotic War. In fact, Russia most likely expected the war to be over weeks ago. The impact of the Ukrainian resistance, the constant flow of weapons through NATO countries and the heavy economic sanctions hardly entered the calculations, not with the intensity they gained in real life.

If confirmed, the Victory Day issue could affect the outcome of the conflict in two distinct ways. First, in the military field, it can “haste” the Russian forces, giving a deadline, an urgency character to the offensive. This can force wrong decisions, increase the number of losses and disregard for civilian casualties or casualty numbers. It can also boost the morale of Ukrainian defenders, motivated by the idea that if resistance still existed in the day 04 of May, it would be a Ukrainian victory.

Diplomacy

No diplomatic field, may hinder an eventual negotiated solution to the conflict. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba has already stated that contact between the two sides is maintained only by negotiating teams in Belarus, without high-level contacts from the ministries. He also stated that the situation in Mariupol could be a “red line” for the success of the negotiations, referring to the possible bloodbath that a “last bastion” can represent.

Mainly, the idea of ​​Victory Day as a deadline for the success of the offensive can hinder negotiations precisely because it conveys the idea of ​​a victory, a Ukrainian submission. The fact is that Russia has not achieved the decisive conditions to be able to claim a victory. You may even get it in the future, but this is not the current scenario, and it is not likely that in just a few weeks you will get these conditions.

In other words, a negotiated solution would be necessary. In a situation like this, perhaps the main element of the actors involved is to maintain part of their pride, the idea that an unconditional surrender has not occurred. Unlike Nazi Germany, in May 1945, which gives even more weight to the symbolism of the date. The idea of ​​a military parade bragging about the Ukrainian defeat does not appeal to the Kiev negotiators.

It is more realistic, unfortunately, to think that the war in Ukraine will still drag on. The behavior of the Russian government in relation to the traditional celebrations of the 9th of May may reveal more of this eventual strategy. Far from a military parade of glory, Russia needs to deal with the reality of the losses suffered and that a military solution to this conflict seems increasingly far away.

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