Looming holiday, Kremlin comments point to dramatic Russian escalation in Ukraine: expert

Looming holiday, Kremlin comments point to dramatic Russian escalation in Ukraine: expert

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Several actions by Russia in recent days, along with a looming holiday that is culturally significant within the country, point to Russia escalating its invasion of Ukraine in the near future, an expert tells Fox News Digital.

Rebekah Koffler, a former U.S. DIA intelligence officer focused on Russia and the author of “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America,” told Fox News Digital Friday that May 9, the day Russia celebrates victory over Germany in World War II, is a date by which Putin feels pressure to achieve some sort of victory in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin uses state-run media to spread the Kremlin’s message. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin uses state-run media to spread the Kremlin’s message.  (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

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“It’s the 77th anniversary of what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War, which is what the West calls World War II,” Koffler explained. “It’s a massive holiday, and they typically have got a huge military parade where they display all their latest weapons technology. I just anticipate that [Putin] is going to do everything possible to claim a victory, whether he in fact can achieve that or not. There’s a tremendous pressure to continue this tradition.”

Koffler added that the Russian government uses the holiday as a time to strategically promote its military power, and the show of force is important to Putin in terms of his legacy. 

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A Ukrainian serviceman poses with a Russian beret he retrieved from a destroyed Russian military vehicle on his weapon at the Antonov airport in Hostomel, Ukraine, April 2, 2022.  

A Ukrainian serviceman poses with a Russian beret he retrieved from a destroyed Russian military vehicle on his weapon at the Antonov airport in Hostomel, Ukraine, April 2, 2022.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Defense analyst professor Michael Clarke agreed with that assessment in a recent interview, saying that “all intelligence indicates that Putin is desperate to get something out of this war in time for the ninth of May.”

Koffler also explained that a recent quote from Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov shows Russia has an idea of when and how to bring the conflict to an end. 

Peskov said in an interview with Sky News that the Russian Federation’s “operation will reach its goals or end in talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegation in the next few days, in the foreseeable future.”

Peskov added that, as of now, the “operation continues and the goals are being achieved.”

Koffler says that comment suggests that Russia has a plan on when to force an end to the conflict and sends a signal that the Kremlin is counting on the military strategy and negotiation strategy “intersecting” sometime soon.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, walks before a meeting with President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 1, 2022. 

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, walks before a meeting with President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 1, 2022.  (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Additionally, Koffler pointed to a recent comment from Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, who suggested that sanctions levied against Russia by the West could be interpreted as “international aggression.” Medvedev suggested that, as a result, Russia has the right to individual and collective defense from that aggression under international law. 

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Koffler told Fox News Digital that comment could indicate that Russia is getting ready for a “massive” escalation in the war that could be “catastrophic.”

Koffler’s assessment is that the escalation could come in the form of a devastating airstrike or a full-on assault of Odesa, which is an area Putin has long coveted and that could cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea. 

The Odesa region, which is sometimes referred to as New Russia, harking back to the time of Catherine the Great, would be a “huge” acquisition for Putin’s legacy, Koffler explained, adding that controlling that area would allow Putin to claim a significant victory even though his primary goal of toppling Kyiv was not achieved. 

“This timeline to them is significant,” Koffler said. “We are about to experience an escalation, a last-ditch push.”