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Vladimir Putin is planning an “anniversary” attack on Ukraine utilising 500,000 new troops. Ukrainian intelligence chiefs have confirmed previous fears that an incoming attack would see the half-a-million troops “try something” and launch a new push on February 24. Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov warned the new offensive would mark the war’s next phase, and another attempt to take the country.
Speaking to French broadcasters, Mr Reznikov said that his intelligence has revealed a higher than expected concentration of troops preparing for a new offensive.
He told the French BFM Network: “Officially they announced 300,000 but when we see the troops at the borders, according to our assessments it is much more.”
The news follows a warning from NATO Secretary-General that the organisation’s allies prepare to weather a long battle.
Mr Stoltenberg warned that NATO allies to “prepare for the long haul” and said it is “extremely important that Putin doesn’t win”.
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He added that Putin will not join talks for a peace deal because he still “believes he can win on the battlefield”.
Speaking while in South Korea, Mr Stoletenberg said: “We don’t see any signs that President Putin and rules in Moscow are preparing for peace.
“We see the opposite. We see that they are preparing for more war, that they are mobilizing more soldiers, more than 200,000, and potentially even more than that.
“That they are actively acquiring new weapons, more ammunition, ramping up their own production, but also acquiring more weapons from other authoritarian states like Iran and North Korea.
“And most of all, we have seen no sign that President Putin has changed his overall goal of this invasion that is to control a neighbour, to control Ukraine.
“So as long as this is the case, we need to be prepared for long haul.”
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He continued: “What we do know it that what happens around that table is inextricably linked to and totally dependent on the situation on the battlefield.
“So if we really want Ukraine to prevail as a sovereign, independent nation in Europe, then we need to support them now.
“Military support today makes it possible to reach a peace agreement tomorrow.”
Ukrainian military leaders have also warned of Russia‘s plans for a new offensive.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine‘s national security and defence council, said: “Now they are preparing for maximum activation, and they believe that by the anniversary they should have some achievements.
“There is no secret that they are preparing for a new wave by February 24, as they themselves say.”
In recent weeks, fighting for the towns of Soledar and Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine has been the epicentre of the conflict.
The UK Ministry of Defence produced its latest intelligence update on Ukraine this week, reporting that fighting is also intensifying in the south.
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The MoD tweeted: “In recent days, some of the most intense shelling in the conflict has likely taken place along the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine. This has included continued Russian shelling of Kherson city with artillery firing from the east of the river.
“On 29 January 2023, local authorities reported another three civilians killed in Kherson, while two foreign-owned ships moored on the river were damaged, causing an oil spill.
“Kherson remains the most consistently shelled large Ukrainian city outside of the Donbas. Russia’s precise rationale for expending its strained ammunition stocks here is unclear.
“However, commanders are likely partially aiming to degrade civilian morale and to deter any Ukrainian counter-attacks across the Dnipro River.”