Zelenskyy says Ukraine is gearing up for a major Russian offensive
By Caitlin McFall
In an overnight speech on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a warning that Russia intended to escalate its aggression and would “throw everything they have” at the conflict in an effort to turn it around.
Since the colder winter months began, neither side has made much progress, though Russia suffered significant defeats in Kharkiv and Kherson between September and November of the previous year.
Some of the fiercest battles are currently occurring in and around the Donbas region, where forces with Russian support have been engaged in combat since 2014. Ukrainian forces have also continued to push the lines further east into Donetsk.
“We have no doubt that the current masters of Russia will throw everything they have left and everyone they can muster to try to turn the tide of the war and at least postpone their defeat,” he said addressing his troops and international allies.
“We have to disrupt this Russian scenario. We are preparing for this,” he added.
Zelenskyy suggested that stopping this looming offensive will be the “final defeat” in the war against Russia, which has raged for more than 10 months.
Zelenskyy did not expand on what Kyiv suspects Russia will do in this major offensive, nor did he comment of preemptive defensive measures Ukrainian forces are gearing up for.
But the warning from the Ukrainian president comes less than two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin called on his defense forces to overhaul his war effort by not only reinforcing troops on the front lines in Ukraine, but by making sure they have the arms, supplies and equipment they need.
Putin also called on Russia’s Defense Military Board to expand missile stockpiles, boost “the combat readiness of [Russia’s] nuclear triad,” and ready what he called the world’s “most powerful” warhead – the intercontinental ballistic Satan II missile – for “combat duty.”
Putin signaled last month that another mobilization will not be needed after he called up 300,000 men in September to join the war – a figure that was double the number of troops he stationed on Ukraine’s border ahead of the invasion.
Though some reporting has suggested Moscow will order another mass conscription among fighting age men to join the war and will close Russia’s borders to prevent them from evading the order.
It is unclear how many Russian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine, and death tolls have not been confirmed.
U.S. officials in November said some 100,000 Russian soldiers are estimated to have been killed or injured in the fighting, though a breakdown of the casualties was not provided.
Ukraine has claimed that nearly 109,000 Russian troops have died in the war, though these figures have not been verified.