THERE has been speculation that President Putin may use the occasion of Victory Day to make a major announcement, or even to declare all-out war on Ukraine, as opposed to a “special military operation”, but the Kremlin has denied it has such plans.

Something short of full mobilisation could be announced, in response to Russia’s big losses on the battlefield. Dozens of ads have appeared on job websites in recent weeks looking for “specialists in mobilisation work”, but such a step could hit the president’s popularity and Victory Day might not be the right time to announce it.

After Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, Putin marked Victory Day with a speech in Red Square about defeating fascism, before flying to the Black Sea port of Sevastopol to celebrate his new victory in front of thousands of onlookers.

“This year the primary objective was to announce the victory that was supposed to happen in February [when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began],” says Ernest Wyciszkiewicz of the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding.

Instead of celebrating the overthrow of Ukraine’s government, the Kremlin will have to settle for the capture of most of Mariupol. The southern city may lie in ruins, but Russia has repeatedly talked of “de-Nazification and demilitarisation” of Ukraine and it may claim defeat of the Azov battalion, which it has falsely portrayed as Nazi.

That would resonate on a day marking victory in World War Two.