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Russia shifts focus to early May victory in eastern Ukraine, US officials say

A column of tanks marked with the symbol Z extends into the distance as they advance north along the Mariupol-Donetsk highway on March 23.
A column of tanks marked with the symbol Z stretches out into the distance as they head north along the Mariupol-Donetsk highway on March 23. (Maximilian Clarke/Sipa)

Russia has revised its Ukraine war strategy to focus on gaining control of Donbas and other regions in eastern Ukraine with a target of early May, according to several US officials familiar with the situation assessment. America’s latest newspaper.

More than a month after the war, Russian ground forces were unable to control the areas in which they were fighting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is under pressure to show he can show a victory, and eastern Ukraine is where he is most likely to achieve it, officials said. According to a US official, the US intelligence attacks show that Putin is focused on May 9, Russia’s “Victory Day”.

May 9 is a prominent holiday in the Russian calendar, a day when the country marks the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II with a huge parade of troops and weapons on the Square. Red in front of the Kremlin. Officials say Putin wants to celebrate a certain victory in his war that day.

But other officials noted that even with Russian celebrations, a real victory could be further away.

“Putin will have a victory parade on May 9 regardless of the state of war or peace,” a European defense official said. “Otherwise: a victory parade with what troops and vehicles?”

However, US and European officials say that any deadline that Moscow can give rhetorically will not change reality on the basis that Russia appears to be preparing for the prospect of a conflict. prolonged.

One European diplomat said that while the Kremlin was talking optimistically, Putin was preparing for a “long, long, Chechen-style war, because to a certain extent he is not Where else is there to continue this war?”

Officials said there were several reasons behind the May timeframe. Once the winter freeze ends and the ground softens, it will be harder for Russia’s heavy ground units to maneuver, meaning these forces must be in position as soon as possible, US intelligence estimates. price.

Russian-backed fighters have also been in that area for years. The Donbas region in eastern Ukraine is where Russian separatists took control of the territory in 2014.

Ukrainian officials have also publicly indicated this date. “Prior to May 9, Putin has set the goal of a victory parade for this war,” Secretary of the Security Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov said on Thursday.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday that Ukrainians believe they are facing a “very complicated and difficult month” as Putin tries to meet deadlines.

“His end goal was, was, is and will be to take over Ukraine, but he has failed. He failed due to a very strong determination of the Ukrainian army and the very strong solidarity of Ukraine and the Western world, as well as the sanctions imposed by the United States, the G7 and the European Union. ,” Yatsenyuk said. “So as far as I can see, Putin has moved on to Plan B. My opinion is that this Plan B has a deadline.”

The United States also assesses that Putin is now preparing to appoint, for the first time, an overall commander of the war in order to achieve greater Russian successes, two US officials said. The US believes that Putin will probably name a general who was in southern Ukraine because that is where the Russians have succeeded in their goals.

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