The Ukrainian government has issued a warning that Russia is mustering troops along the border in preparation for a new large-scale assault that is likely to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the invasion on February 24. Multiple reports have also previously indicated that the Kremlin was planning a Spring offensive.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told a French media outlet on Wednesday that Putin has ordered a stunning 500,000 forces to prepare for the offensive in the coming weeks.
Reznikov told the reporter, “Officially, they announced 300,000, but when we see the troops at the borders, according to our assessments it is much more.”
Senior Defense Ministry official Yuriy Sak also told NBC on Thursday that “We should understand that the threat of a new and another offensive will remain until we defeat Russia.”
Sak added that Ukrainian officials expect the assault to happen from the south and east adding, “As their main forces are concentrated in the east, we do expect them to begin an offensive there, perhaps around Bakhmut.”
“The situation has become tougher,” in the region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced in his most recent evening address to Ukrainians.
“The enemy is trying to achieve at least something now to show that Russia has some chances on the anniversary of the invasion,” Zelensky added.
Both the U.S. and Ukraine have been closely monitoring joint exercises between Russia and Belarusian forces that have been occurring in neighboring Belarus in recent weeks. Defense Minister Danilov told UK media this week that “Russia is preparing for maximum escalation. It is gathering everything possible, doing drills and training.”
It is likely that the Kremlin is preparing to launch an offensive in an effort to keep up the positive momentum Russian forces have gathered in recent weeks as they have moved in on the city of Bakhmut. It is likely that Russian forces are also eager to attack Ukrainian forces before Western tanks arrive from the U.S. and NATO allies in the coming months.
While Ukrainian forces anxiously await the Spring offensive, Russian mercenaries with the Wagner Group are clearing the way, reporting on Wednesday that they had seized the villages of Sacco and Vanzetti, which are north of Bakhmut. The Wagner Group also claimed to have taken disputed territory on Bakhmut’s eastern side.
As the intense fighting continues, it has been reported that both sides are suffering heavy losses.
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