Neither a declared victory nor a mobilisation: assessing the message the Russians heard in Putin’s speech

Vladimir Putin
President Putin RIA/Scanpix

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s traditional speech in Moscow’s Red Square on the occasion of the so-called Victory Day, which was full of speculations and predictions, finally turned out to be a regular Kremlin propaganda-laden message: neither a general mobilisation nor any interim “victory” in Ukraine was announced by Putin in his speech on the 9th of May, Ignas Grinevičius writes in lrytas.lt.

What did the Russians hear?

Linas Kojala, head of the Centre for East European Studies (CESE), said that what Putin said in his speech on Monday is something we have heard many times before.

“It was not a speech where we could hear something new from Putin, although there were a lot of expectations and considerations about what might be said, from the possibility of a general mobilisation or openly acknowledging that there is a war going on and not a ‘special operation’.

We have not heard anything like that. What we have already heard many times from Putin’s lips has been repeated – that Russia is behaving the way it is in order to forestall the West’s attempt to attack Russia. That what the Russian army is doing today is a continuation of what took place during the Second World War – a defence against Nazi ideology. But we have heard all these many times before,” the political scientist said on the “Lietuvos rytas” TV programme “New Day”.

Earlier, Western officials had announced that Russia might officially declare war on Ukraine on the 9th of May and thus launch a general mobilisation, but this was not in Putin’s speech either.

“Some people, including representatives of Lithuania, would say that this mobilisation is taking place – maybe not in such an open form, but in any case, additional forces are being mobilised, although Russia does not officially recognise this.

Perhaps Putin understands that this would mean, first of all, an acknowledgement that there is a large-scale war going on and that the large forces that have been mobilised are not sufficient to achieve the objectives that have been set.

And this would certainly not make happy the part of the Russian population that is watching what is happening in Ukraine on the TV screen, supporting the Russian army, but not wanting to contribute directly, let alone take part in hostilities, as they might demand if the mobilisation were comprehensive”, the political analyst noted.

Asked whether the 9th of May parade lived up to the regime’s expectations, Kojala stressed that expectations are always those shaped by the Kremlin’s own propaganda.

“These expectations are always easily adjusted because Russia has the leverage to control the information space, to shape the narrative in the way it wants. Now we have seen a signal of that.

For example, Putin was alone, and there were no international leaders to come and celebrate this day alongside him, which is because it was not an anniversary date. However, it is perhaps obvious that Putin’s international isolation, even in terms of the countries that are traditionally close to Russia politically, is quite considerable.

So the expectations are always the ones that the Kremlin’s disinformation creators themselves create,” L. Kojala stressed.

No victory?

A number of Western and Lithuanian experts have said that on the so-called Victory Day, Putin will want to show his public some victory achieved during his war in Ukraine, but the country’s dictator has emphasised the events of the past, promising to continue the “de-Nazification of Ukraine”. Why has no interim victory been devised?

“Apparently, because there is not much of one. Although we understand that it can be created when the information space is controlled, it seems that what is happening in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine cannot be considered even an intermediate stop. Unfortunately, this means that hostilities have a high potential to continue indefinitely enough.

Not only are the Kremlin’s expectations and desires perhaps somewhat different, but the possibilities that intersect with this will also make it difficult to find any real political solution.

Ukraine’s principled position is that the occupying forces must withdraw before the 24th of February, at a time when about 7% of Ukraine’s territory was occupied, but certainly much less than it is now. This is a precondition that has to be fulfilled, but it still seems a long way off”, said Mr Kojala.

The prospects for the Russian occupiers in Donetsk and Luhansk are currently difficult to assess, he said.

“The movement of the occupying forces is uneven and vague – in some areas, we can see as if there is some push forward, but it is not clear how much of the newly occupied territories are being consolidated and how much is being occupied, and then successfully taken back by the Ukrainians.

For example, at Kharkiv, which has been under attack since the beginning of the war, we see that the Russian occupation forces have been forced to retreat, and it has become increasingly difficult to even talk about the artillery of this army being able to reach the city because of the distance.

In some places, the movement is a little faster, but there are no clear results, and it would be difficult to say that the goals that even the Kremlin officially sets itself have now been realised. The best example of this is Mariupol, a completely devastated city that is experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe, where, although there are a handful of Ukrainian defenders, they are still holding out,” Mr Kojala emphasised.

lrytas.lt
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