Military experts and Ukrainian authorities fear a barrage of new attacks ahead of the conflict’s first anniversary
Russia is reportedly planning to launch a wave of attacks on Ukraine next month, in a bid to make strategic gains before the bloody conflict reaches its first anniversary.
Ukrainian officials, Kremlin sources and military analysts predict that Russian President Vladimir Putin is bracing for a major new offensive in February or March.
The secretary of the Ukrainian national security and defence council, Oleksiy Danilov, said that Russia was sending more troops to certain parts of Ukraine in preparation for “maximum activation” by 24 February, which will mark a year since Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine.
“They believe that by the anniversary they should have some achievements. It is no secret that they are preparing for a new wave by 24 February, as they say,” he told Radio Svoboda last night, according to Sky News. “There is an understanding in which areas they want to do something.”
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Mr Danilov said that Russia had been “scouting” out Ukrainian forces in the Zaporizhzhia region, in south east Ukraine, for the past week, and that “there is a certain accumulation of troops.”
Assessments from the Institute for the Study of War also found that the Kremlin was likely preparing to carry out “a decisive strategic action”, most likely in Luhansk Oblast, the easternmost province of Ukraine, over the next six months.
The Institute also pointed to recent attacks in Zaporizhzhia as evidence that Putin may be intended to disperse Ukrainian forces and set conditions for an offensive in Luhansk.
Russian officials, including Kremlin insiders, speaking on the condition of anonymity to Bloomberg, appeared to confirm the plan, saying that Putin was plotting a major new offensive in February or March.
“The Kremlin aims to demonstrate that its forces can regain the initiative after months of losing ground, putting pressure on Kyiv and its backers to agree to some kind of truce that leaves Russia in control of the territory it now occupies,” sources told the news outlet.
Putin is reportedly still convinced that Russia can win the war, despite numerous setbacks from Ukrainian counteroffensives, poorly equipped Russian forces and a wealth of international support for Ukraine.
Reports of a looming offensive will pile pressure on Western allies as they scramble to send new military equipment to Ukraine’s aid.
The US and Germany announced this week that they will supply tanks to Ukrainian forces, following a similar announcement from the UK last week. But the first tanks are not expected to reach the frontlines until late March, and require new ammunition and training before they can become operational.
Defence expert Dr Marina Miron told i that Russia could try to redouble its military efforts in Ukraine over the next month in a bid to make gains before the tanks come into play.
Former senior British Army officers also warned that the Kremlin was likely to try to attack the tanks during their delivery to the frontlines, to destroy the machinery before it can be used by Ukrainian troops.
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