Ukraine is warning that Moscow is massing hundreds of thousands of troops on its border again for a major new offensive, just weeks before the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday gave a stark message to the West as he speculated that the Kremlin was building up its power to “retaliate”.
“Now Russia is concentrating its forces. We all know that. We are preparing to try to take revenge, not only against Ukraine, but against free Europe and the free world,” Zelensky said at a press conference with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, according to Agence France-Presse.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told French media on Wednesday that Russia had 500,000 troops ready to attack in a week. That number is far higher than the 300,000 troops that Russian President Vladimir Putin called in last fall.
“They officially announced 300,000, but when we see the soldiers on the border, according to our estimate, it is much more,” said Reznikov.
And Yuriy Sak, a senior official in Ukraine’s defense ministry, told NBC News Thursday that officials in Moscow are worried that they are preparing for an attack in the near future that aims to turn the war into of the Kremlin.
“We should understand that the threat of new attacks and other attacks will remain until we defeat Russia,” Sak said.
Western and Ukrainian officials have long warned that Russia is planning another spring offensive after humiliating defeats last summer and fall and a winter hiatus.
But warnings are mounting ahead of the war’s anniversary on February 24.
Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, tweeted on Thursday He spoke with Jake Sullivan, US National Security Adviser and President General Mark Milley, about the new Kremlin attack.
Russian forces, which have made major advances around the eastern city of Bakhmut in the past two weeks — their biggest gains in the war since the summer — plan to take the city from finally and will drive incremental progress toward greater victory in the war.
Moscow is hoping that the hundreds of thousands of reservists and new troops it called up in the fall will allow it to replenish troops depleted last year.
Running the schedule is a small gap between the latest Western combat vehicles and tanks and when Ukraine will actually receive the weapons, experts predict.
Both the US and Germany agreed last month to send tanks to Kyiv’s army, including 31 M1 Abrams tanks from Washington.
Zelenskyy in his nightly video address warned that Ukrainian security officials will have to make difficult choices as the battle against Bakhmut continues, saying the situation has “become more intense”. in the area.
“The enemy is trying to achieve at least something now to show that Russia has a chance on the anniversary of the invasion,” he said.