• Declaring war would allow Putin to mobilize reserve forces and draft conscripts, say officials
  • They said Putin could also make a push toward taking over the city of Odesa
  • Ukrainian intelligence said Putin may announce a mass mobilization on Victory Day

Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine as soon as May 9, known as Victory Day in Russia, officials said.

Western officials believe Putin could either announce a military achievement, an escalation of hostilities or both on May 9. The “Victory Day” commemorates Russia’s defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

To date, Putin has never called the invasion of Ukraine a “war,” referring to it only as a “special military operation” that aims to liberate Ukrainians from “Nazis.”

"I think he will try to move from his 'special operation. He's been rolling the pitch, laying the ground for being able to say 'look, this is now a war against Nazis, and what I need is more people, '" British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told LBC Radio last week.

"(I) would not be surprised, and I don't have any information about this, that he is probably going to declare on this May Day that 'we are now at war with the world's Nazis and we need to mass mobilize the Russian people,'" he added.

A formal declaration of war would allow Putin to mobilize reserve forces and draft conscripts, which officials say Russia needs amid manpower struggle, the rising death toll among Russia troops and the declining levels of morale among soldiers. As of Tuesday, at least 24,200 soldiers died in the war, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense.

Apart from formally declaring war, Putin may consider other routes, including annexing the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, making a push toward taking over Odesa or declaring victory in the besieged city of Mariupol, according to Michael Carpenter, the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Western officials’ suggestions about Putin’s possible moves on May 9 comes after Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, said they received intel that the Kremlin may announce a mass mobilization on May 9. He added that intel shows Russia’s Federal Agency for State Reserves (Rosreserv) is currently assessing whether they are prepared to give out the order.

Budanov added that Russians would also likely attempt to take over the Donbas region, but noted that they will not succeed.

The Ukraine Hotel in central Chernigiv was flattened by Russian bombs in mid-March
The Ukraine Hotel in central Chernigiv was flattened by Russian bombs in mid-March AFP / Genya SAVILOV