Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited the German chancellor to visit Kyiv next week, which would correspond with Russia's annual May 9 Victory Day celebration.

Russia could try to get a decisive win in Ukraine ahead of the celebration, which commemorates the country's role in defeating Nazi Germany, the United Kingdom's Defense Ministry warned on Friday.

Zelensky invited German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to visit Kyiv, the German president’s office said on Thursday, while he suggested Scholz come on Monday during a conversation with Chatham House, a London-based policy institute. Steinmeier admitted last month he had offered to visit the country but was "not wanted."


“If Ukraine falls, Russia will come for you," Zelensky said. "It may take a generation, but they will come for Europe. Chancellor Olaf Scholz should come to Kyiv on May 9 in a show of unity with Ukraine.”

A number of Western leaders, including U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Biden Cabinet secretaries Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken have visited the capital in recent weeks as Russia has focused its military efforts in the eastern part of the country.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the department is unable to determine whether Russia’s efforts are directly tied with the celebration.

"I can't say that looking at what we can see that we can say definitively that there's a change in behavior or aggressive or momentum based on the coming day of May 9. And what they plan to do or say on Victory Day, that's really up to them. I don’t think we have a perfect sense," he said. "But I can't sit here honestly and tell you that we're seeing a correlation between the looming deadline of the 9th and the way they're behaving in the Donbas."

Ukraine's defense agency warned that it had intelligence Russia was planning a military parade in the besieged town of Mariupol, which has been one of the hardest-hit cities with fighting that has turned a once-thriving city to rubble.

“Therefore, Mariupol, according to the plans of the racists, should become the center of ‘celebrations.’ To this end, the city is urgently cleaning the central streets from debris, the bodies of killed and unexploded ordnance,” Ukraine’s defense agency wrote in a Telegram post. “A large-scale propaganda campaign is underway, during which Russians will be shown stories about the ‘joy’ of locals from meeting the occupiers.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN, “I can't tell on the behalf of the military if there are any plans,” when asked if a Victory Parade is expected in Mariupol.

“Victory Day for all Russians, for almost all residents of the former territory of the Soviet Union, is a sacred day, the main holiday, which is filled with symbolism, a sense of pain for the sacrifices that we have suffered through, and a sense of pride for our country and our victory. Therefore, nothing will overshadow it,” he added, while the Kremlin also confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin would attend and give a speech during the traditional Victory Parade.

Civilians trapped in Mariupol have hid in the tunnels of the Azovstal steel plant, with officials saying there could be as many as 1,000 people there. Ukraine is undertaking the "next stage" of evacuations, though previous attempts have been stopped by Russian forces.


The British Ministry of Defense said on Friday that Russia's recent bombardments of the facility are "likely linked to the upcoming 9 May Victory Day commemorations and Putin’s desire to have a symbolic success in Ukraine."

Additionally, Ambassador Michael Carpenter announced at Monday's State Department briefing that there was "highly credible" evidence to indicate "that the Kremlin may try to hold sham referendum to try to add a veneer of democratic electoral legitimacy." He said that this could happen as soon as "mid-May" and that Russia may try the same ploy in Kherson.