Ukraine is focused on preparing for a much-anticipated, large-scale Russian offensive that’s expected to be concentrated on the east of the country.
The Ukrainian governor of the mainly Russian-occupied Luhansk province in the east of the country warned Monday that Russia is moving troops into eastern Ukraine ahead of its anticipated action, saying “we are seeing more and more (Russian) reserves being deployed in our direction; we are seeing more equipment being brought in.”
“They bring ammunition that is used differently than before – it is not round-the-clock shelling anymore. They are slowly starting to save, getting ready for a full-scale offensive,” Governor Serhiy Haidai told Ukrainian television.
Ukrainian officials believe Russia could begin its offensive in the next two weeks, with one official telling the Financial Times the offensive could begin by February 15. Last week, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Kyiv expected it could be launched around the first anniversary of the war, on February 24.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that the country must now spend every day preparing for the Russian offensive that will likely aim at seizing the entire eastern Donbas region.
Russian forces trying to break through Ukraine’s defenses around Bakhmut
Russian troops are attempting to push through Ukraine’s defenses in the Bakhmut and Lyman area, but are suffering heavy losses, according to an update by Ukraine’s Ground Forces on Facebook Tuesday.
“Ukrainian defenders are heroically repelling the attacks of the Russian occupiers along the entire line of the eastern front,” Ukraine’s Ground Forces said in a statement.
“In the eastern direction of the front, the Russian occupiers do not stop their offensive attempts in the Lyman and Bakhmut directions,” the statement, translated by Google, noted. It added that Russian forces continue “to make attempts to break through our defenses” but suffer “heavy losses.”
“On the approaches to Bakhmut, our military showed great endurance and professionalism, which hindered the enemy’s actions and caused enormous losses in manpower for the Russian occupiers,” the statement continued, saying that, as a result, Russian forces had not been able to break through the defenses of the “Bakhmut fortress.”
Russian forces and mercenaries belonging to the private military company known as the Wagner Group have been attempting to capture Bakhmut for months. Capturing the city in Donetsk is seen as a strategic goal for Russia as it tries to seize the region and wider Donbas area of eastern Ukraine.
NATO arms for Ukraine bring the alliance into the war, Russia’s defense minister says
Russia’s defense minister said Western arms shipments to Ukraine have effectively brought NATO countries into the conflict.
“The USA and its allies are trying to prolong the conflict as much as possible,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on a conference call reported by Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Tuesday.
“With this purpose, they have started to deliver heavy offensive weapons, openly urging Ukraine to capture our territories,” he said, without providing evidence. Such steps, he added, bring NATO into the conflict “and can lead to an unpredictable level of escalation.”
NATO has offered Ukraine weapons to fight Russia, but has repeatedly insisted that they must be used in a defense capacity and not deployed against targets on Russian territory.
Shoigu said Russian forces were making progress in eastern Ukraine, listing a number of settlements that Russia has captured in recent weeks, including Soledar. He said Russian forces were making progress around Vuhledar and Bakhmut (called ‘Artemovsk’ by Russia).
Russia and Ukraine both claim that each others’ forces have suffered high death tolls in parts of eastern Ukraine. Analysts say that Russian forces have made incremental gains in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks.
UN says more than 7,100 killed in Ukraine since start of war
The United Nations has confirmed at least 7,155 deaths and 11,662 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor nearly a year ago.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.
“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes,” the international organization wrote in a release.
Ukraine’s parliament appoints new Minister of Interior following deadly helicopter crash
Ukraine’s parliament appointed Ihor Klymenko as the country’s new Minister of the Interior after a deadly helicopter crash last month killed the previous minister as well as several other Ukrainian officials.
Klymenko previously served as the acting interior minister on the heels of the helicopter accident, and before that as head of Ukraine’s National Police.
Zelensky sends aid and rescue workers to Turkey following devastating quakes
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following Monday’s devastating twin earthquakes.
Zelensky told his Turkish counterpart that he will provide humanitarian aid to Turkey to help with the emergency situation in the country caused by the earthquakes. He also said that a group of Ukrainian rescuers and the necessary equipment will also be sent to help the people of Turkey.
“Ukrainian specialists have experience overcoming the consequences of natural disasters, and will arrive in the affected regions as soon as possible. They will help with the whole range of work on the recovery from the earthquake,” Zelensky told Erdogan, according to a Ukrainian readout of the call.