Victory Day, the battle for Bakhmut, and NATO: What to watch for this week.

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Russia will celebrate its most important annual military holiday this week, amid mounting anxiety following a series of attacks and over a looming Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The May 9 holiday, Victory Day, marks the triumph of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany. It falls this year just a week after two explosions over the Kremlin, which Russia said was a Ukrainian attempt to use drones to assassinate President Vladimir V. Putin.

President Volodymyr Zelensky strongly denied any involvement in what would have been a brazen strike and has warned that Moscow would use it as a pretext to win public support and potentially escalate the war.

This year, Mr. Putin’s annual Victory Day speech could signal how the Kremlin plans to respond, at least rhetorically, to the drone incident and to the anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive. He has traditionally observed the holiday with extravagant displays of military might in Moscow’s Red Square.

But the incident over the Kremlin was one of several apparent attacks within Russia that have amplified jitters in the country. Over the weekend, a car bombing seriously wounded a prominent Russian nationalist and novelist and killed his driver. Other recent attacks have included blasts that ignited oil storage facilities and derailed at least two trains in Russia.

Some Russian cities have canceled Victory Day celebrations this year over security concerns, but the major celebration in Moscow’s Red Square on Tuesday is expected to go ahead.

Here’s what else we’re watching this week:

  • Grain deal talks: Representatives of the United Nations, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey this week are expected to discuss extending the Black Sea grain deal beyond May 18. The deal allowed Ukraine, a major source of the world’s grain, to export shipments through the Black Sea during wartime, but Russia has threatened to withdraw over obstacles to its own exports.

  • Military support: Top military officials within NATO are expected to meet in Brussels on Wednesday for discussions on the alliance’s military priorities and the war in Ukraine.

  • Battle for Bakhmut: The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group appeared to walk back his threat to pull his fighters out of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, saying on Sunday that he had been promised more ammunition and weapons. Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the Wagner chief, said last week that his fighters would withdraw from the lengthy battle for the city on May 10 because of insufficient ammunition.

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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