Ukraine is warning that Moscow is regrouping hundreds of thousands of troops on the border for another massive offensive, just weeks before one year of Russia’s invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday sent a sharp message to the West when he predicted that the Kremlin was building up its forces to take “revenge”.
“Now Russia is concentrating its forces. We all know that. He is preparing to try to take revenge not only against Ukraine, but also against free Europe and the free world,” Zelensky said at a press conference together with EU High Representative Ursula von der Leyen, reported by Agence France-Presse.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told French media on Wednesday that Russia there were 500,000 troops ready for an attack that was to come in weeks. That number is far greater than the 300,000 newly recruited troops that Russian President Vladimir Putin called up last fall.
“Officially they announced 300,000, but seeing the troops on the borders, we estimate that they are much more,” Reznikov said.
And senior Ukrainian Defense Ministry official Yuri Sak told NBC News on Thursday that officials are worried that Moscow’s military is preparing for an imminent offensive aimed at turning the war in the Kremlin’s favor.
“We must understand that the threat of new and new offensives will remain until we defeat Russia,” Sack said.
Western and Ukrainian officials have long warned that Russia is planning a renewed spring offensive after a series of embarrassing defeats last summer and fall and a near stalemate in the winter.
But warnings are intensifying a year ahead of the February 24 war.
Andrii Yermak, Zelensky’s chief of staff, tweeted on Thursday he had spoken to US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley about a new Kremlin offensive.
Russian forces, who have made significant progress around the eastern city of Bakhmut in the past two weeks – their biggest victory in the war since the summer – are aiming to finally capture the city and parlay mounting gains into bigger battlefield victories.
Moscow hopes that the hundreds of thousands of reservists and recruits it called up in the fall will allow it to rebuild military units depleted last year.
Experts predict that the timeline is advancing the small gap between the new promised Western combat vehicles and tanks and when Ukraine will actually take possession of the weapons
Last month, the US and Germany agreed to send tanks to Kyiv’s forces, including 31 M1 Abrams tanks from Washington.
Zelensky, in his overnight video address, warned that Ukrainian defense officials will have to make some tough choices as the battle for Bakhmut continues to heat up, saying the situation “has become more difficult” in the region.
“The enemy is trying to achieve at least something now to show that Russia has some chance on the anniversary of the invasion,” he said.