Ukraine is warning that Moscow is regrouping hundred of thousands of troops on the border for a massive new offensive, just weeks before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday gave a stark message to the West when he forecast that the Kremlin was building up its forces to take “revenge.”
“Now Russia is concentrating its forces. We all know that. It is preparing to try to take revenge, not only against Ukraine, but against a free Europe and the free world,” Zelensky said at a press conference alongside European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, as reported by Agence France-Presse.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told French media on Wednesday that Russia had 500,000 troops ready for an attack to come in weeks. That number is far higher than the 300,000 newly enlisted soldiers Russian President Vladimir Putin called up this past autumn.
“Officially, they announced 300,000, but when we see the troops at the borders, according to our assessments it is much more,” Reznikov said.
And senior Ukrainian defense ministry official Yuriy Sak told NBC News Thursday that officials are worried Moscow’s military is preparing for a soon-to-come assault aimed at turning the war in the Kremlin’s favor.
“We should understand that the threat of a new and another offensive will remain until we defeat Russia,” Sak said.
Western and Ukrainian officials have long warned that Russia is planning a renewed spring offensive after a series of embarrassing defeats in summer and fall and a near stalemate over the winter.
But the warnings are picking up ahead of the war’s one-year anniversary on Feb. 24.
Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, tweeted Thursday he had spoken with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley about a new Kremlin offensive.
Russian forces, which have made significant advances around the eastern city of Bakhmut over the past two weeks — their biggest gain in the war since summer — are looking to finally take the city and push past the incremental gains into bigger battlefield wins.
Moscow is hoping the hundreds of thousands of reservists and new conscripts it called up in the fall will allow it to reconstitute military units depleted last year.
Driving the timeline forward is a small gap between newly pledged Western battle vehicles and tanks and when Ukraine will actually take possession of the weapons, experts predict
Both the U.S. and Germany last month agreed to send tanks to Kyiv’s forces, including 31 M1 Abrams tanks from Washington.
Zelensky in his nightly video address warned that Ukrainian defense officials will have to make some difficult choices as the battle over Bakhmut continues to grind, saying the situation “has become tougher” in the region.
“The enemy is trying to achieve at least something now to show that Russia has some chances on the anniversary of the invasion,” he said.