Russia was pouring reinforcements into eastern Ukraine ahead of a possible new offensive, a Ukrainian governor said, but British intelligence yesterday said it was unlikely that Mosocw would have enough forces to significantly affect the war within weeks.
Desperate for Western military aid to arrive, Ukraine anticipates a major offensive could be launched by Russia for “symbolic” reasons around the Feb. 24 anniversary of the invasion, which Moscow persists in calling “a special military operation.”
Ukraine is itself planning a spring offensive to recapture lost territory, but it is awaiting delivery of promised longer-range Western missiles and battle tanks, and some analysts say the country was months away from being ready.
“We are seeing more and more [Russian] reserves being deployed in our direction; we are seeing more equipment being brought in,” said Serhiy Haidai, Ukraine’s governor of the mainly Russian-occupied Luhansk Province.
“They bring ammunition that is used differently than before — it is not round-the-clock shelling anymore. They are slowly starting to save, getting ready for a full-scale offensive,” Haidai told Ukrainian television.
“It will most likely take them 10 days to gather reserves. After Feb. 15 we can expect [this offensive] at any time,” he said.
The war is reaching a pivotal point as its first anniversary approaches, with Ukraine no longer making gains as it did in the second half of last year and Russia pushing forward with hundreds of thousands of mobilized reserve troops.
UK Defence Intelligence said in its daily report that Russia’s military has likely attempted since early last month to restart major offensive operations aimed at capturing Ukraine-held parts of Donetsk.
However, Russian forces have gained little territory, as they “lack munitions and manoeuvre units required for a successful offensive,” it said.
“Russian leaders will likely continue to demand sweeping advances. It remains unlikely that Russia can build up the forces needed to substantially affect the outcome of the war within the coming weeks,” it said.
In his Monday evening address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that personnel changes on the border and front line would bolster Ukraine’s military efforts amid uncertainty over the future of Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, just as Russia advances in the east for the first time in six months.
Zelenskiy said he wanted to combine military and managerial experience in local and central government, but did not directly address confusion about whether his defense minister would be replaced.
On Sunday, David Arakhamia, head of Zelenskiy’s parliamentary bloc, said Reznikov would be transferred to another ministerial job, but on Monday he wrote that “there will be no personnel changes in the defense sector this week.”
Zelenskiy said he needed to show that Ukraine was a safe steward of billions of US dollars of Western military and other aid, and his government is engaged in the biggest political and administrative shake-up since Russia’s invasion nearly a year ago.
“In a number of regions, particularly those on the border or on the front line, we will appoint leaders with military experience. Those who can show themselves to be the most effective in defending against existing threats,” he said.
The EU said Zelenskiy has been invited to take part in a summit of EU leaders, amid reports he could be in Brussels as soon as this week, in what would be only his second-known foreign trip since the invasion began.
Zelenskiy’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Reznikov told Ukrainska Pravda during the weekend that intelligence suggested any new Russian offensive would likely come from the east or south.
“Their dream is to expand the land corridor to Crimea in order to continue supplies. Therefore, of course, the key risks are: the east, the south, and after that the north,” he said.
Ukrainian defence analyst Oleksandr Kovalenko said a new Russian offensive could come from one of four directions; the eastern Luhansk region, the Donetsk region, the Zaporizhzhia region, and the city and port of Mariupol.
“Things are more serious in Donetsk region, particularly around Bakhmut and Avdiivka. And the Russians will be boosting their contingents there as well as equipment and paratroops,” Kovalenko, from the Information Resistance group think tank, told Ukrainian radio NV.
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