Russia is massing men and arms for a new offensive. As soon as January, but more likely in the spring, it could launch a big attack from Donbas in the east, from the south or even from Belarus, a puppet state in the north. Russian troops will aim to drive back Ukrainian forces and could even stage a second attempt to take Kyiv, the capital.
Those are not our words, but the assessment of the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, General Valery Zaluzhny. In an unprecedented series of briefings within the past fortnight the general, along with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, and General Oleksandr Syrsky, the head of its ground forces, warned us of the critical few months ahead. “The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops,” General Zaluzhny told us. “I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv.” Western sources say that Russia’s commander, General Sergey Surovikin, has always seen this as a multi-year conflict.
This is not the view outside Ukraine. In the freezing mud, the conflict is thought to be deadlocked. There has been almost no movement for a month along the 1,000km or so of battlefront. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Britain’s most senior officer, this week said that, right now, a shortage of artillery shells means Russia’s scope for ground operations is “rapidly diminishing”.
The appearance of stalemate is feeding new interest in peace talks. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, America’s Joe Biden and (for very different reasons) the Russian aggressor, Vladimir Putin, have all in recent days talked about a diplomatic solution. Many in the West, appalled at the suffering, and, more selfishly, wearying of high energy prices, would welcome this. But Ukraine’s commanders argue that it should not happen too soon, and they are right.
If Ukraine sought to stop the war today, freezing the battle lines where they are, the Russians could prepare better for the next attack.
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