The Ukrainian government is openly warning the international community that a large influx of Russian conscripts into assembly areas in and around Ukraine is indicative of a renewed offensive, reported to begin by February 24th, 2023.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Reznikov told local Ukrainian media today that “We do not underestimate our enemy… [the Russians] have already mobilized 500,000 soldiers”.
He added “Officially they announced 300,000 but when we see the troops at the borders, according to our assessments it is much more”.
He also estimated that the Russian forces “can try something on February 24”, the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.
In a separate interview, Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, told press that Ukraine is preparing to rebuff a major Russian offensive in February. Open source analysts and major news outlets are reporting that along a 140km front through the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, Russian artillery fire has peaked in the last week, with such barrages not seen since September attempts to cull the Ukrainian counter offensive.
The comments from the above officials seem to reiterate comments made by President Zelensky today saying that Russia may “try something big”, in reference to the crescendo in artillery fire throughout the forward line of troops in the Donbass. Ukrainian intelligence services have also reported that more than 320,000 Russian service members are in Ukraine, more than double the 150,000 used in the initial invasion, signaling a true whole of government response led by Gerasimov.
Many of these events have been centered around Bakhmut where several Russian and Russian-back separatist leaders have proclaimed an operational encirclement of the Ukrainian stronghold.
Self-Declared Donetsk People’s Republic Adviser Gavin told press this morning that Russian forces were attacking North and South of Bakhmut, had engaged several convoys of Ukrainian troops on the road from Chasiv Yar, and were working to enclose the settlement. DPR Representative Marochko also told press today that Russian forces were only “10km from encircling Bakhmut”.
Ukrainian sources reported that about 6,000 civilians still reside in the battered settlement with approximately 400 children.