Russia celebrates 77th anniversary of Victory Day, a key date for Russians that commemorates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. This year the celebration comes in the midst of the war in Ukraine, which Moscow started on February 24 thinking that could achieve a definitive and total victory in a short time.
“As bad as things are going for him in Ukraine, obviously the formal reason for the call remains the defeat of Nazi Germany”, affirms to RTVE.es the co-director of the Institute of Studies on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action (IECAH), Jesús Núñez Villaverde. “Another thing is that for that day, being involved in a war like the one in Ukraine, try to present something that also connects with the feeling of victory, but the reality is quite far from that”, he asserts.
Experts disagree on whether Russia has achieved any significant victory in this conflict. Russian forces claim that they have the port city of Mariupol under control and, at the beginning of March, seized kherson. However, Russian troops they did not get to enter the ukrainian capital after weeks trying to take it. According to Moscow, this move was made to focus on the Donbas region, although it also showed the attrition of the Russian forces.
“More than achieving objectives, it has reaped failures,” says the professor of International Relations at the University of Nebrija, Gracia Abad.
Victory Day and the “denazification” of Ukraine
For Russians, May 9, Victory Day, is a national pride symbol. This Russian national holiday commemorates the historic victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in World War II with a military parade through the main avenues of Moscow. This year marks its 77th anniversary, which comes in the midst of the war in Ukraine.
“For them it is a historic day because it is the day that they not only defeated Nazi Germany, but also they defeated the state that invaded the Soviet Union and caused 27 million deaths in the western part of the Soviet Union”, explains the professor of Contemporary History at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), Josep Puigsech.
“The victory that is being celebrated is against Nazi Germany, what is certain is that it generates that dissonance, between how badly operations are going on the ground and that image of a victorious power”, points out the professor of Political Science at the Pablo de Olavide University, Manuel Torres. “For this reason, I imagine that the media related to the Russian government They will have to be used a lot so that the population does not stay with that bitter feeling“, Add.
In Putin’s tremendously warmongering speech in which announced the start of a “special military operation” in Ukrainethe Russian president explained that one of his main objectives was to “denazify” the neighboring country.
“What Putin did was try to legitimize the start of what they call the ‘special military operation’ by resorting to speech of the Nazi character of the Ukrainian leaders, thus relating it to the Second World War”, affirms Puigsech. “What is clear is that in the face of an international projection, this discourse has been highly weighted because, after all, it does not fit reality. Neither Neither Zelensky nor the Ukrainian management team are Nazis.. So there is an obvious weakness there, ”she emphasizes.
In this sense, Gracia Abad states that “it was interpreted that Russia was seeking to reach Victory Day with a certain parallelism that would support the rhetoric in this war about denazification and all the excuses (that have been there all this time and that played the parallelism of the victory in the two wars ”.
‘Putinism’ and Russia’s “victories”
After more than two months of war, experts disagree on whether Russia has achieved any substantial victory in Ukraine. According to US military analysts, Moscow has so far achieved only minor victories in his offensive in the east of the country.
Mariupol, a port city on the shores of the Sea of Azov, has been the most devastated by Russian attacks since the invasion began. The Russian forces say they have the city under controlwhich is located in southern Ukraine between areas controlled by Russian separatists in the east and the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
In early March, Russian troops seized the city of Kherson, also in southern Ukraine, and since then Moscow has tried to legitimize its control in the area with the installation of a pro-Russian administration.
“There is nothing to win right now. None of Russia’s initial goals have been realized and they can’t even be glimpsed up close”, says Abad.
For his part, Torres explains that “Russia has not achieved any significant victory in Ukraine due to the expectations generated by Russia itself and has not ceased to modify the objectives of the special operation”. “The progress is not being satisfactory either. What is marking the future of this war is the inability of the Government to convey that this effort is worth it and that enormous number of victims”, he asserts.
However, in the Ukraine war, Russia has managed to “amputate the country’s economic capacity,” according to Puigsech, who indicates that during the conflict “despite the different elements of sanctions against Russia, Putin and ‘Putinism’ have remained with evident solidity”. In addition, Puigsech emphasizes that this conflict has made Moscow’s nationalist discourse “strengthened.”
For Núñez Villaverde, Russia has “clearly” achieved significant victories in Ukraine, since “The war did not start on February 24, but in 2014”. “From then until today, what Russia has achieved is Crimea, a territory that was part of Ukraine and that today is a territory annexed by Russia,” says the expert. “Another thing is that in the new phase of the war, which began in February, we still has not achieved practically any of the objectives that could have been set”, he asserts.
Failure in the capture of kyiv and in the “liberation” of Ukraine
After weeks of fighting at the gates of the Ukrainian capital, the Russian forces that had intended to take kyiv withdrew in early March. This withdrawal marked an important turn in the war and ended, in principle, with the Russia’s initial attempt to take over kyiv. Moscow assured that it was a movement to regroup their forces and focus on the Donbas regionalthough it was also a clear sign of the wear and tear of the Russian troops.
“The initial objective was the collapse of the Ukrainian government and the establishment of one related to the interests of Russia, but as long as Zelensky and his government continue to lead the country, it is really very difficult for Putin to project that he has achieved any of the objectives what he was after,” says Torres.
The Russian Army has been significantly weakened in the Ukraine war. According to British Intelligence, more than a quarter of the tactical battalions sent by Russia to Ukraine have been rendered inoperative for combat. In addition, the Russian flagship, the Moskva missile cruiser, sank after being hit by two Ukrainian missiles when it was around 65 nautical miles from Odessa, in southern Ukraine, something that kyiv and the United States have confirmed, but which Moscow denies.
Professor Abad believes that in the war in Ukraine, Russia “has exhibited a military weakness that in itself is a problem because it has lost international reputation”. “Has achieved a weakening of the Army. Today the Russian troops are 30% weaker than they were at the beginning of the war,” he asserts.
An impossible definitive victory for Putin?
Putin’s initial plan was, according to some analysts, achieve a definitive and total victory in a short time, but it has not. The Russian president’s intention would have been to carry out a blitzkrieg and establish a puppet government in Ukraine, but after Russian forces failed in their attempts to take kyiv for weeks, Russia announced the start of the second phase of its “operation”. special military.
His main goal now is fully control the Donbas region and southern Ukraine, which would allow Putin to create a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, but it is not even clear that he will achieve these watered-down goals.
“As long as the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States continue to send weapons to Ukraine, As long as Ukraine continues to have these allies, it is practically impossible for Putin’s Russia to have a military victory. in the whole of the Ukrainian territory”, affirms Professor Puigsech.
For his part, Núñez Villaverde believes that “there is no victory around the corner, but neither is a definitive defeat “. “It is true that Russia is advancing slowly, but it is advancing, and it is true that Ukraine is resisting, but to assume that Ukraine is in a position to expel all Russian forces from its own territory, I think that is beyond its possibilities,” he asserts.
The co-director of the lECAH assures that for the war in Ukraine “to be a victory for Russia, it would have to getting Ukraine out of NATO, its demilitarization and the recognition of Crimea as Russian territoryas well as the recognition of the independence of Donbas”.
In this sense, the Nebrija University professor considers that if Russia “achieves control all of eastern and southern Ukraine as far as Odessa, it would be enough” for Moscow to consider it a victory. “But it is that the conflict there has been entrenched for several weeks and it seems that neither the Russian nor the Ukrainian side are making great progress. It’s a war of attrition”, he stresses.