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‘Very bad options’: Putin’s muted Victory Day rally shows he has little to celebrate

May 9 was supposed to be the next milestone in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Many observers expected Russian troops to escalate their attacks in an attempt to blast their way to some sort of battlefield achievement before the annual parade, as a gift to . Since it was clear that major prizes like Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa are beyond Russia’s reach — likely for good — Mariupol was the logical target.

But even that battered city has proven too tall a task for Russia. Ukrainian forces in the city’s Azovstal steel plant somehow remain in the fight, and Russian troops surrounding the complex have opted not to risk heavy casualties trying to storm it.

The other expectation for the Victory Day celebration in Moscow’s Red Square was that Putin would make a major announcement about the war in Ukraine. Some anticipated a declaration that the country was

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