Ukraine prepares for full-scale offence in days

Ukrainian soldiers train to fight Russian forces

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Russia could launch a major offensive as early as next Wednesday as the Kremlin is pouring reinforcements towards the frontline, a senior Ukrainian leader has warned. Serhiy Haidai, the Governor of Luhansk, said Moscow is beginning to “save” artillery ammunition, “getting ready for a full-scale offensive”.

The Ukrainian military said 1,030 Russians died yesterday, the highest daily toll of the war so far, as Moscow throws thousands into battle.

The Kremlin wants to achieve a breakthrough before Western battle tanks arrive in Ukraine.

And the Ministry of Defence has warned Russian commanders are attempting to use “undermanned, inexperienced” units to meet “unrealistic” objectives as political pressure intensifies.

Intelligence chiefs believe Moscow does not have enough ammunition to successfully launch a major offensive.

Russian forces are only moving forward “several hundred metres” every week, with the capture of Donetsk Oblast believed to be the key goal.

They are throwing thousands of troops into what Defence Secretary Ben Wallace describes as “the meatgrinder” of Ukrainian machine-gun fire.

Mr Haidai warned “more and more” reserves are being deployed towards the frontline.

He said: “We are seeing more and more [Russian] reserves being deployed in our direction, we are seeing more equipment being brought in,” said Serhiy Haidai, the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk.

“They bring ammunition that is used differently than before – it is not round-the-clock shelling anymore. They are slowly starting to save, getting ready for a full-scale offensive,” Haidai told Ukrainian television.

“It will most likely take them 10 days to gather reserves. After Feb. 15 we can expect [this offensive] at any time.”

It comes as the deputy commander of UK forces in Estonia, Major Nick Bridges, said Challenger 2s will “make short work of an infantry company”.

Ukrainian officials say they expect the new drive to come in eastern and southern Ukraine, as the Kremlin strives to secure areas it has illegally annexed and where it claims its rule is welcomed.

Battlefield setbacks have embarrassed the Kremlin, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is keen to cement public support for the war. Ensuring Kremlin rule in the eastern Donbas industrial region, bordering Russia, is expected to be a key objective.

Major Nick Bridges, deputy commander of the UK forces on the 1,500-man, 500-vehicle exercise, has drawn lessons from the Estonia exercise for the Ukrainians. “Their biggest challenge will be communications” between the Leopard and Challenger tanks, he says.

Major Bridges said the Challenger 2 tanks have heavier armour, but Leopards are faster and lighter.

He added: “Both can do gunfights at night and they’ve got hunter-killer capabilities as well. So, they can engage a target while looking for the next target.”

Major Bridges dismissed the “demise of the tank,” he says, but said Ukrainians could use them to devastating effect.

“They are not there to take on other tanks, but to destroy other vehicles,” he explains. They’ll “make short work of an infantry company or vehicle convoy,” he adds.

Ukrainian troops have arrived in the UK to begin training on how to use the AS-90 artillery guns.

Britain is donating 30 to give Kyiv’s forces more firepower.

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