- Russia will throw “everything that they have left” into the war – Kyiv
- 89 Russian servicemen are killed in the New Year’s attack at the Ministry of Defense
- Bakhmut is still on the eastern front, the scene of heavy fighting
- Russia deploys a frigate with hypersonic cruise missiles
- This story includes content produced in Russia, where coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine is restricted by law
Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia plans to call in more troops for a new major offensive, even as Moscow faces its biggest domestic criticism of the war over an attack that killed dozens of new recruits. .
Kyiv has been saying for weeks that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to order another mass conscription and seal its borders to prevent men from escaping the draft.
“We have no doubt that the current masters of Russia will throw everything they have left and everyone they can gather in an attempt to change the course of the war and at least delay their defeat,” Zelensky said in his video address Tuesday night.
“We have to disrupt this Russian scenario. We are preparing for it. The terrorists must lose. Any attempt to launch their new attack must fail.”
Russia’s defense ministry on Wednesday blamed its soldiers’ use of mobile phones for a Ukrainian attack on New Year’s Eve that it said killed 89 soldiers, the deadliest incident Moscow has admitted involving its forces since the war began.
If Russia is planning a new mobilization, the deaths of dozens of conscripts on New Year’s Eve could undermine morale. Hundreds of thousands of men fled Russia when Putin ordered the first call-up of reservists since World War Two in September, after military setbacks.
Putin said last month that no further mobilization was needed. But in a sign that the Kremlin might now consider one, a little-known group claiming to represent the widows of Russian soldiers put out a call on Tuesday for Putin to order a massive mobilization of millions of men. The Kremlin has not commented on this appeal.
Russia has effectively shut down all direct opposition to the war, with public criticism banned under strict media rules. But it has given relative freedom to pro-war bloggers, some of whom have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.
Many are vocal about what they see as an unenthusiastic and incompetent campaign, expressing outrage this week over the strike that killed Russian forces at a vocational school in Donetsk province on New Year’s Eve.
The criticism was directed at the military leaders, not Putin, who has not commented publicly on the attack.
Russia’s defense ministry, which raised the official death toll in the attack to 89 from 63, blamed the soldiers for illegally using mobile phones, which it said prompted Ukraine to locate the base in Makeyevka, the twin city of the regional capital Donetsk.
Semyon Pegov, a war correspondent whom Putin deputized, said on Telegram that the cellphone explanation “seems like an explicit attempt to assign blame,” and that there were other ways Ukraine could have monitored the base.
Other pro-Russian bloggers said the strike was exacerbated by the storage of ammunition at the site. Moscow has not confirmed this.
Moscow is having trouble housing newly mobilized forces safely near the front for the winter, said Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
“They are difficult to disperse due to the lack of command of a small unit, and they will perform worse in the cold than trained soldiers,” he wrote on Twitter. But, he added, placing them so close to ammunition “is simply a failure of leadership.”
French President Emmanuel Macron told Zelensky that France would send AMX-10 RC light armored vehicles to help in the war, a French official said after a phone call between the two men, adding that this would be the first time Western-made armored vehicles had been sent. Delivered to support the Ukrainian army.
An official from the intelligence department of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Andriy Chernyak, said in comments to RBC-Ukraine’s media that Kyiv does not expect any complacency in the Russian offensive this year despite the heavy human losses.
“According to estimates of the Ukrainian military intelligence, the Russian army may lose up to 70,000 people in the next four or five months. And the leadership of the occupied (Russian) country is ready for such losses,” Chernyak said.
He said that Russian leaders “know that they will lose, but do not plan to end the war.”
In a signal to the West that Russia will not back down on Ukraine, Putin sent a frigate on Wednesday into the Atlantic Ocean armed with a new generation of hypersonic cruise missiles, which can travel at more than five times the speed of sound.
In its daily update, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army said that Russia launched seven missile strikes, 18 air strikes and more than 85 attacks from multiple launch missile systems in the past 24 hours on civilian infrastructure in the cities of Kramatorsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson.
“There are civilian casualties,” she added. Russia denies deliberately attacking civilians.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Ukraine’s General Staff also said Russian forces continued to focus on advancing near the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk region, where both sides are believed to have lost thousands of soldiers in weeks of intense trench warfare.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax that Putin plans to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday. Turkey acted as an intermediary alongside the United Nations to strike a deal that would allow the grain to be exported from Ukrainian ports.
Russia launched what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, citing threats to its security and the need to protect Russian speakers. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of waging an unprovoked war for territorial control.
Reporting by Reuters offices. Writing by Michael Berry and Gareth Jones; Edited by Peter Graf
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