CNN says US and Western officials believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin could move to formally declaring war on Ukraine as soon as May 9, which would allow for the full mobilization of Russia’s reserve forces as they attempt to conquer eastern and southern Ukraine.

May 9, known as Russia’s “Victory Day,” commemorates the Russians’ defeat of the Nazis in 1945.  Western officials have reportedly long believed that Putin would leverage the symbolic significance and propaganda value of that day to announce either a military achievement in Ukraine, a major escalation of hostilities — or both.

Officials have begun to hone in on one scenario, which is that Putin formally declares war on Ukraine on May 9. To date, Russian officials have insisted that the conflict was only a “special military operation” with the central goal of “denazification.”

"I think he will try to move from his 'special operation,’” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace reportedly told LBC Radio last week.  “He's been rolling the pitch, laying the ground for being able to say 'look, this is now a war against Nazis and what I need is more people. I need more Russian cannon fodder.’”

Wallace added that he “would not be surprised, and “I don't have any information about this, that he is probably going to declare on this May Day that 'we are now at war with the world's Nazis and we need to mass mobilize the Russian people.’”

A formal declaration of war on May 9 reportedly could galvanize Russian citizens and surge popular opinion for the invasion.  It would also, under Russian law, allow Putin to mobilize reserve forces and draft conscripts, which officials say Russia desperately needs amid a growing manpower shortage.

Citing Ukrainian sources, Western officials say that at least 10,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war since Russia invaded just over two months ago.

Other options for May 9 include annexing the breakaway territories of Lugansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, making a major push for Odessa in the south, or declaring full control over the southern port city of Mariupol.

“The United States has highly credible intelligence reports that Russia will try to annex Lugansk and Donetsk some time in mid-May,” the US Ambassador to OSCE Michael Carpenter said on May 2, according to CNN.  There are also indications that Russia could be planning to declare and annex a “people’s republic” in the southeastern city of Kherson.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on May 2 that there is “good reason to believe that the Russians will do everything they can to use” May 9 for propaganda purposes.