UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace wants to challenge Russia’s use of suffering and commemoration on its 9 May parade – an annual event marking the Soviet Union’s victory in the Second World War – which he says will hide their military’s poor leadership in Ukraine.
Wallace says Russia’s generals have shown a “disgraceful display of self preservation and doubling down on failure”.
In his speech at the National Army Museum, Wallace will say all professional soldiers should be appalled by the behaviour of the Russian Army.
He’ll say their top brass have engaged in war crimes and have failed their own troops.
Wallace says they should be court-martialled. That seems highly unlikely.
But Britain’s defence secretary says he wants to call out the absurdity of them parading in manicured uniforms with medals – when he says they’re as much to blame as Russian President Vladimir Putin for the suffering in Ukraine.
There has been speculation that President Putin may use the occasion of Victory Day to make a major announcement, perhaps even to declare all-out war on Ukraine, as opposed to what it currently refers to as 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 on 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.