Russia has mobilised half a MILLION troops for major new offensive, Kyiv defence minister warns

Russia has mobilised half a MILLION troops for major new offensive

On the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Kyiv's defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, has warned of a major new offensive by Russia that will involve 500,000 troops. Reznikov stated that the Russian military is planning to mount another attack on Ukraine with the huge number of soldiers. The invasion of Ukraine by Moscow began on February 24, 2022, but what was expected to be a swift overthrow of the Ukrainian government has turned into a long and arduous war of attrition. Despite facing several setbacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly preparing to launch another major offensive in an attempt to change the tide of the conflict and ultimately achieve victory in Ukraine. In support of these claims, Moscow hinted at a new offensive with Putin's chief diplomat suggesting that Russia plans to overshadow pro-Ukrainian events arranged by Western and allied countries on the anniversary of the invasion.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hinted at a significant move by Russian diplomats, saying that they are working on something to ensure that Western-led events are not the only ones to capture the world's attention, without providing any details. The comments came before European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv for a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During the meeting, von der Leyen announced that the European Union, along with its G7 partners, would be introducing fresh sanctions against Russia, including a new price cap on Russian petroleum products. Von der Leyen stated that existing sanctions are eroding Russia's economy and estimated that an existing oil price cap is costing Moscow around 160 million euros every day.

The Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, commented on the partial mobilization of 300,000 Russian soldiers, saying that the actual size of the force could be closer to 500,000 and is gathering at the borders. Reznikov warned that Russia may launch an offensive on two fronts, in the east and the south, and called on the West to provide Kyiv with more weaponry to repel the attack. In response to the threat, Western powers, including the US and Germany, have approved sending more than 100 battle tanks to Ukraine, and the US is preparing a package of military aid worth over $2 billion, including the delivery of long-range missiles. However, the US and UK have not yet approved Kyiv's request for fighter jets, due to concerns that it may escalate the war further.

The recent comments made by Oleksiy Reznikov, the Ukrainian Defense Minister, about a potential Russian offensive in Ukraine, have been echoed by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. In a video address, Zelensky acknowledged that there has been a noticeable increase in the offensive operations by the occupiers in the east of their country and that the situation has become tougher. Last week, Oleksiy Danilov, the Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, also stated that Russia was likely planning an attack to commemorate the 2022 invasion, and that Moscow's troops have been tasked with going beyond the borders of the mostly occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The two regions are located in the eastern Donbas, which Putin has been seeking to seize since the start of his so-called “special military operation”. The Luhansk governor, Serhiy Haidai, also noted that there has been an active transfer of Russian troops to the region, indicating that they are preparing for something in the eastern front in February. Additionally, military think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, supports the assessment that Russia is likely to conduct a decisive offensive operation in Donbas in February or March.

The map below is the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 02 February 2023.

It also said that Putin was probably getting ready for more cross-border invasions along Ukraine's northeastern frontier, likely with the intention of furthering domestic propaganda and putting Ukrainian forces in a tight spot in the northern border regions.

Intelligence reports from the West, Ukraine, and Russia have all indicated a probable renewal of Russia's spring offensive, after a temporary truce was established over winter as Ukraine regained control of large portions of its territory in the north and south.

Despite this, some of the fiercest fighting has occurred around Bakhmut during the winter, with Russia making minor advances towards the key objective set by the Kremlin.

Both sides have suffered enormous losses in the conflict, with reports suggesting that Russia has experienced tens of thousands of casualties in the battle that has been described as a “meat grinder.”

On Wednesday, a Russian strike hit an apartment building in eastern Ukraine, adding to Reznikov's warning of a new offensive. The rocket attack in the city of Kramatorsk in Ukraine's Donetsk region resulted in at least three deaths and 20 injuries. Rescuers, including paramedics and search-and-rescue dogs, worked to search for survivors amidst the rubble, and tragically found the body of a resident who was crushed. President Zelensky described the situation as the “daily reality of life in our country.” He is now seeking political support from the West, including calls for the supply of fighter jets and long-range artillery. However, the Kremlin stated that such deliveries would not impact their military objectives or strategy.

Ukraine continued its crackdown on corruption on Wednesday, conducting coordinated searches of properties associated with a controversial oligarch and former interior minister, as well as tax offices in the capital. This action is seen as an attempt by Kyiv to demonstrate to European and American military and financial supporters that it is addressing systemic corruption. The head of Ukraine's security service, Vasyl Maliuk, stated that they are executing the directives of President Volodymyr Zelensky and dealing a blow to the nation's internal enemies. The raids target influential billionaire Igor Kolomoisky and former minister Arsen Avakov, according to the head of Zelensky's party, David Arakhamia. Law enforcement also searched tax offices in the capital and senior customs officials were fired.

The raids came ahead of a crucial EU summit and marked the largest political shake-up since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February. The SBU released images of a search at Kolomoisky's home; he was banned from entering the US due to allegations of corruption and interfering with democracy. The search was launched in connection with an investigation into the embezzlement of 40 billion hryvnia (about $1.1 billion) from energy holdings. The SBU also uncovered a scheme by the head of the Kyiv tax office, involving multimillion-dollar fraud, accusing the official of exploiting their position of power. The State Bureau of Investigation and the Prosecutor General's Office announced that they are investigating several senior officials for crimes such as misappropriation of state funds and abuse of state property.