Ukraine braces for Russian offensive in Luhansk ahead of war anniversary

Officials loyal to Kyiv said President Vladimir Putin was massing Russian forces in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province in what could be a major new offensive to break a stalemate in the fighting ahead of the war’s first anniversary.

“There is an active movement (of Russian troops) in the region and they are preparing to do something definitely on the eastern front in February,” Luhansk Governor Serhii Hedai said on Wednesday.

Hedai added that Moscow forces are evacuating residents living near Russian-held parts of the front line to prevent them from providing Ukrainian artillery forces with information about Russian troop movements.

This information echoes the statements of the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov. In an interview with Sky News Wednesday.

Danilov said that Russia is preparing for more and more tension. “It’s doing everything possible, practicing and training.”

Russia is massing forces in eastern Luhansk province ahead of what could be a major offensive.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said late Tuesday that “possible action by Russia in the coming months is most likely.”

A renewed push by Russia to regain momentum and seize more territory could come on February 24, the anniversary of the attack.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces reported on Wednesday that Russia is also focusing its efforts in the neighboring Donetsk region, where Kremlin forces have been trying to capture the key city of Bakhmut for months, reportedly. By paying the heavy price of lives.

Russian shelling of Bakhmut, where most of its 75,000 residents have fled while others spend most of their time in cells, killed at least five civilians and wounded 10, Ukraine’s presidential office said on Tuesday.

Ukrainian soldiers build a trench near Bakhmut on February 1.
Fierce fighting continues around the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Russian troops are trying to capture.
AFP via Getty Images

Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko posted photos of the aftermath of the shelling, showing large black holes in the city’s residential buildings, described by both sides as meat grinders. Russia is “actively deploying new military personnel to the region,” he said.

Donetsk was one of four provinces illegally annexed by Russia in the fall, but it controls only half of it. To take the rest, Russian forces have no choice but to go through Bakhmut – the only route to major Ukrainian-held cities.

Moscow-installed officials in Donetsk claimed Russian troops were encircling the city, but the Wagner Group, a private mercenary arm working at the Kremlin’s bidding, denied Wednesday that. The city is surrounded.

“When the city is captured, you will definitely know about it,” Putin’s friend Yevgeny Prigozhin, who founded the paramilitary force, said in an online post.

Ukraine is rushing to secure more Western weapons and deploy them as quickly as possible to deter Russian forces.

Ukrainian soldiers take firing positions as they take part in a military training exercise in the Kherson region on Wednesday.
In the south, Kherson, which was recaptured by Ukraine in the fall, has been under constant shelling by Russian forces.
AFP via Getty Images

The United States and European countries pledged last week to supply advanced battle tanks to Ukraine, but their delivery could be months away.

Ukraine has been lobbying its allies to deliver fourth-generation fighter jets, but President Biden on Monday ruled out the possibility of transferring F-16s to Kyiv.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described media reports about new US military aid to Ukraine soon to be announced as “a direct way to inflame tensions and push tensions to a new level”.

“It will require additional efforts on our part, but it will not change the course of events,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

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