While some analysts and defense officials predict that the war in Ukraine may last several months or years more, Ukrainian intelligence suggests that Russia could be looking to end its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine in the next four months.
Kiev’s Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that intelligence suggests the Kremlin plans on wrapping up the war by September.
“There is information among the occupier’s military that the so-called ‘special military operation’ is set for September 2022,” the ministry revealed.”
What Russian President Vladimir Putin believes he can do differently between now and September is unknown, but with a firm deadline potentially in place, the Kremlin and the Ukraine war director Gen. Aleksandr Vladimirovich Dvornikov may well pursue new tactics
What Happened to May 9?
In March, local reports suggested that the Russian president was planning to end his war campaign in Ukraine in May. Concluding the war on the national holiday, which is typically celebrated with huge parades in Russia and former Soviet states, would have tied into the Kremlin’s assertion that Ukraine is influenced at a high level by neo-Nazis.
The Kyiv Independent, an independent English-language Ukrainian news outlet, said in March that intelligence from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine suggests Russian soldiers were being told that the war “must end by May.”
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, also appeared to back reports that Russia was planning to end the war within a matter of days. On Tuesday, Francis said that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had told him that the war would be over by May 9.
“Orban, when I met him, told me that the Russians have a plan and that on May 9 it will all be over. I hope that is the case,” Francis told Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.
“Because now it’s not just the. Donbas, it’s Crimea, it’s Odesa…it’s taking away the Black Sea port from Ukraine. I am pessimistic, but we must make every possible gesture to stop the war.”
What Is “Victory” to Russia?
The reports may not necessarily be in conflict. With Russian soldiers effectively defeated in Kyiv, and almost all troops reallocated to the eastern region of Donbas, it’s clear that the Kremlin must now redefine victory to save face at the end of this conflict.
Having originally set out to conquer the Ukrainian capital city, the Russian military is now laser-focused on taking control of Donbas. Some reports also suggest that “pseudo referendums” will be held in Russian-occupied regions in a similar vein to the illegal Crimea independence referendum held in 2014.
Should the Russians successfully pull off these referendums by May 9, that may be the “victory” Putin is looking to celebrate this month. With just days to go, however, the chances of that happening seem slim.
By September, however, the Russian military will have had sufficient time to hold the referendums, establish a pretext for annexing the region, and potentially “liberate” the separatist regions from Ukraine.
Should the Russian president still intend to celebrate some level of victory in Ukraine by May 9, Ukraine could be in for a particularly turbulent week.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.