Ukraine expects key offensive as Russia plans to expand army | Russia-Ukraine War News

Russia has announced plans to raise 17 new divisions and a new army corps, restoring much of the army’s former Soviet glory, as it continues to wage a relentless battle for the eastern Ukrainian territories in the 43rd week of its war.

russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu unveiled plans on December 21 to expand the army from 1.15 million to 1.5 million, citing the imminent NATO expansion to include Finland and Sweden. Within that force, the professional army would nearly double to 695,000, a potential admission that Russia’s recruiting force has proven ineffective on the offensive.

“The expansion of NATO’s forward presence near the borders of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, together with the West’s intention to continue military operations in Ukraine in an effort to weaken Russia as much as possible, are of particular concern,” Shoigu said. he said.

Russia recruited 300,000 troops in September and October to send to Ukraine, and another 200,000 in its regular recruitment cycle last month. Shoigu’s announcement suggests a further 350,000 would now be recruited.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank, agreed with the Ukrainian military leadership that Russia may be preparing for a great winter ground offensive – possibly against Kyiv – as a way to force Ukraine to negotiate on terms more favorable to Moscow.

Russia’s main offensive in eastern Ukraine and its campaign of missile terror against the population “fail to force Ukraine to negotiate or offer preemptive concessions,” ISW said.

INTERACTIVE - WHO CONTROLS WHAT IN UKRAINE
[Al Jazeera]

ISW assessed that Russia currently does not have the economic capacity to expand its military, but that could change.

“Putin may decide to appropriate Russian state funds in such a way as to allow the Kremlin to field a large conventional army at the expense of economic growth and consumer comforts like the Soviets did,” he said.

air campaign

Russia has continued its psychological warfare against Ukrainian civilians. The air raid sirens sounded across the country on December 16 when Russia launched 76 missiles against critical energy infrastructure, its ninth extensive barrage since launching the air campaign in early October. Forty of the missiles were fired at Kyiv. Most were shot down, but 16 hit their targets, causing power and water outages in several large cities, including the capital.

Two days later, the general staff of Ukraine said that the air the defenses had destroyed 30 of the 35 Iranian-made Shahed drones fired into Ukrainian territory from the Azov Sea.

Battlefield

Throughout the week, Russia and Ukraine launched ground offensives in the two eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

The action was mainly concentrated in two areas: between Svatove and Kreminna in Luhansk, which is under Russian occupation a few kilometers from the line of contact, and between Soledar and Bakhmut in Donetsk, which Russia threatens to invade imminently.

On December 16, Russia said its forces repelled reconnaissance and sabotage units investigating the Kreminna defenses. Three days later, Russia claimed to have destroyed four reconnaissance groups near Rozivka, probably probing Russian defenses around Svatove, just 15 km (9.3 mi) from the front lines.

INTERACTIVE: WHO CONTROLS WHAT IN EASTERN UKRAINE
(Al Jazeera)

Ukraine’s General Staff said its forces were repelling Russian ground offensives on a daily basis, inflicting heavy casualties. “Due to the significant losses from the invaders, the conversion of hospitals in the temporarily occupied territories of Luhansk Oblast into military hospitals continues… The local population is denied service and is suggested to turn to other medical institutions.”

Russia claimed to have taken “new lines and advantageous positions” at Donetsk every day. The only verifiable territorial gain was the Russian occupation of the settlement of Yakovlivka in Donetsk on December 18.

The heaviest fighting has taken place in and around the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk, the eastern outskirts of which are now occupied by Russia.

independent russian newspaper meduza posted photos of daily life there, showing people living in half-bombed buildings and crossing streams on wooden boards. Much of daily life reportedly takes place underground.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a bold visit to the city on December 20, placing himself just a few streets away from Russian forces, and thanked the soldiers “for their courage, resilience and strength.” Zelenskyy has frequently arrived unannounced at various locations along the front lines, but this was his most intrepid appearance to date.

On the same day, Duma deputy Andrey Gurulev said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was in the area of ​​the so-called special military operation, without disclosing where, and “talked to all the commanders,” an apparent attempt to reinforce Putin’s image as a stakeholder. military leader equal to Zelenskyy.

Putin had first attempted this in December 16when the Kremlin said it was at the joint headquarters of the armed forces. video analysis he suggested that he was on Russian soil, at the headquarters of the Southern District in Rostov.

INTERACTIVE: WHO CONTROLS WHAT IN SOUTH KHERSON
(Al Jazeera)

A day after Bakhmut, Zelenskyy visited Washington, DC, appearing alongside US President Joe Biden, in what was his first known trip out of Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24. He thanked the Americans for providing military assistance and called for more.

“We have artillery, yes, thank you. … It’s enough? Honestly, not really,” Zelenskyy told the US Congress, many of whose Republican members have voiced opposition to more spending in Ukraine. “Your money is not charity. It is an investment in global security and democracy that we manage in the most responsible way,” he said.

Biden had a ready answer for Zelenskyy. He launched the sophisticated US Patriot air defense system for use in Ukraine, something the Russian embassy in Washington warned would have “unpredictable consequences.” Congress will approve $45 billion in new military and financial aid for Ukraine by the end of the year, on top of the $70 billion approved so far.

Russia’s relentless campaign has led other NATO members to reconsider self-imposed limits on arms deliveries to Ukraine.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said he would reconsider Britain’s refusal to supply long-range weapons if Russia continues to target civilians.

“I am constantly reviewing the weapons systems we could provide,” Sky News quoted Wallace as telling parliament on December 13. Geneva Conventions, then I will have an open mind to see what we do next,” he said, referring to basic humanitarian principles agreed upon during the war.

Slovakia said on December 12 that it was prepared to send MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, pending a NATO deal. Poland is also known to be pushing for NATO to allow it to send its MiGs.

Greece was reportedly considering sending a battery of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles currently in eastern Crete to Ukraine, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said. Maria Zakharova said it would be a “blatantly aggressive move against Russia.”

When asked if the United States would provide Greece with a Patriot air defense system to replace the S-300s, State Department spokesman Ned Price he referred to the donation of S-300s from Slovakia to Ukraine at the beginning of the war. “We were able to help support and facilitate that contribution by meeting the needs of Slovakia,” he said.

Russia also said it was deploying new weapons, sending its most advanced T-90 “Breakthrough” tanks to the eastern front, without specifying how many. Moscow says the tank is better protected and has “highly automated fire control” systems.

Putin made a trip to Minsk. He said the Russian and Belarusian armies were conducting “combat coordination”, raising fears of a new attempt to march on Kiyv from the north. Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine from Belarusian and Russian territory on February 24.

Putin, who has constantly alluded to the potential use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine, also said he would continue to “train the crews of the Belarusian army’s fighter jets, which have already been converted for the possible use of air-dropped munitions with a special”. armed head”.

Although Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in February ruled out the use of nuclear weapons on his soil, in August he agreed to Putin’s proposal to modify Belarus’ Su-24 jets to carry nuclear warheads.

The economic war also continued apace.

European Union energy ministers agreed on a maximum gas price of $180 megawatt hours on the EU internal market on December 19, to curb war-increased energy costs for EU governments and consumers. The limit will come into effect from February 15 at the Title Transfer Facility (TTF), the main European gas hub, and on March 31 at all European gas hubs.

The Bloomberg news agency reported that Russian oil exports had fell 54 percent in the week after a Group of Seven (G7) price cap of $60 a barrel went into effect, while advising that the sample was still too small to be sure that the cap was the cause of this drop .

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