KIEV, UKRAINE — As Western allies rush for more powerful weapons to help Ukraine reclaim occupied territories, the Russian military says Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has launched a new Russian offensive. Described as a movement, it is stepping up its offensive along the Eastern Front.
Both sides have been preparing for a more intense ground battle for months, with Moscow pushing ahead with its goal of capturing the entire Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, and Kyiv aiming to drive Russian forces out of the country altogether. There is
Now Russia is firing artillery at a rate unrecorded since September and sending tens of thousands of soldiers to test Ukrainian defenses up and down 140 miles of the Donbass front. It was an effort to hold on.
“Russia really wants some kind of big retaliation.” Zelensky said this week. “I think it’s started.”
Andriy Yusov, head of intelligence at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, said he expected the fighting to intensify in February and March. “We are on the eve of a very active stage,” he said on Ukrainian state television.
Ukraine and Russia have been at war with each other for nearly a year. Since the fall, after Ukraine has regained territory with counterattacks in the northeast and south, the fighting in the east has congealed into muddy, icy trenches, with each army inflicting heavy losses on the other side and managing only minor gains. was.
But since the Kremlin appointed General Valery V. Gerasimov to take over the struggle war effort Russia steadily added troops to Donbass last month, Ukrainian military officials say. Ukrainian intelligence estimates that Russia currently has over 320,000 soldiers. This is about twice the size of Moscow’s initial invasion force. Western officials and military analysts say Moscow has between 150,000 and 250,000 soldiers in reserve, trained or stationed inside Russia ready for combat. Says.
“They are preparing for more wars and we can see they are mobilizing more soldiers, more than 200,000 and potentially more,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. told reporters during a visit to South Korea on Monday“They are aggressively acquiring new weapons, increasing their ammunition and increasing their own production, but they are also acquiring more weapons from other authoritarian states like Iran and North Korea. ”
A surge in Russian artillery fire accompanied the military build-up. Konrad Muzyka, a military analyst at Rochan Consulting who tracks Russian deployments, said the barrage of Russian artillery fire had increased from an average of about 60 per day four weeks ago to more than 90 per day last week. said to have reported. one day.
He also said that “Russians are removing a lot of equipment from storage areas.” Still, he agreed with other analysts who said Russia would struggle to equip large numbers of new soldiers with tanks, armored vehicles and other effective equipment.
How the Kremlin will eventually deploy tens of thousands of new fighters is also a matter of speculation.
Ukrainian officials and military analysts say Moscow is preparing to open a new front to retake the territory of Sumy or Kharkov in northeastern Ukraine across the Russian border after being kicked out months ago. There is a possibility that It may be escalating fighting along the Eastern Front to divert Ukrainian resources and undermine Kyiv’s ability to launch its own offensive. From the occupied territories in eastern Ukraine, it may be planning to expand into the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that make up Donbass.
The only problem with consensus is that Russia is not satisfied with the territories it has occupied and maintains the ultimate goal of conquering Ukraine. The escalation of attacks continues the pattern in Russia for nearly her year. It is bleeding the Ukrainian army with relentless attacks.
Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Chairman Oleksiy Danilov told Sky News on Tuesday that he would not rule out “scenarios for the next few weeks.”
“The major battles are yet to come,” he said.
Andrew E. Kramer contributed to the report.