Russia is planning a major offensive to coincide with the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine on February 24, according to the country’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
Speaking to French media, Reznikov warned that Russia would call in a large contingent of mobilized troops. Referring to Russia’s general mobilization of 300 major ,000 conscript troops in September last year, he said numbers at the border suggest the actual size could be closer to 500,000.
“We don’t underestimate our enemy,” Reznikov said. “Officially, they announced 300,000, but when you see the troops at the borders, according to our assessments it is much more.”
The Guardian has not been able to independently verify these figures.
On Wednesday evening, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian forces were trying to make gains they could show on the February anniversary of their invasion major , and issued a dire account of the situation in the province. east of Donetsk.
“A marked increase has been noted in the offensive operations of the occupiers on the eastern front of our country. The situation has become more difficult,”major Zelenskiy said in a video address.
Reznikov said the offensive would likely be concentrated in two areas: the east of the country, which has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks; and the south.
“We believe that, given that [Russia] lives in symbolism, they will try something around February 24th.
Last week, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, also warned that Russia was preparing a wave of offensives to mark the anniversary of the February 24 invasion.
He claimed that Russian troops had been instructed to go “over the borders” of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Donetsk and Luhansk form Donbass, a region bordering Russia that President Vladimir Putin identified as a takeover target from the start of the war.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai claimed that Russian forces were evicting residents near parts of the frontline under Russian control so they could not inform Ukrainian artillery forces of troop deployments.
“There is an active transfer of [Russian troops] in the region and they are definitely preparing for something on the eastern front in February,” Haidai said.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister was in France to meet President Emmanuel Macron and secure the purchase of air defense radars. He was also pressuring European nations to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, which Macron said his country had not ruled out.
“We tell our partners that we too must be ready as soon as possible,” Reznikov told French media. “That’s why we need weapons to contain the enemy.”
Intelligence experts and analysts have long suggested that a new Russian offensive is likely to be launched before spring. Much of the fighting in the east of the country has been in a stalemate for many weeks, with both sides suffering huge casualties as they sink.
Late Wednesday, at least three people were killed in the eastern city of Kramatorsk after a Russian missile strike destroyed a residential building.
“At least eight apartment buildings were damaged. One of them was completely destroyed,” police said in a Facebook post. “People can stay under the rubble.”
Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko posted a photo that appeared to show a four-story building in Kramatorsk that had suffered significant damage.
“This is not a repeat of the past, this is the daily reality of our country – a country with absolute evil on its borders,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram after the attack.
In a separate tweet, Zelenskiy wrote: “The only way to stop Russian terrorism is to defeat it. By chariots. Fighter. Long-range missiles.
Reuters contributed to this report