Russia plans a massive offensive in Ukraine with 500,000 troops to coincide with the first anniversary of its invasion, Kyiv claimed on Wednesday.
Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said Moscow had amassed thousands of troops and could “try something” to mark the anniversary of the initial invasion last year. The attack would also mark Russia’s Defender of the Fatherland Day on 23 February, which celebrates the army.
Reznikov said Moscow had mobilized some 500,000 troops for the potential offensive.
In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a general mobilization of some 300,000 conscripted troops, which he said was necessary to ensure the country’s “territorial integrity”.
But Reznikov suggested that the true figure recruited and deployed to Ukraine could be far higher. “Officially they announced 300,000 but when we see the troops at the borders, according to our assessments it is much more,” he told the French BFM network.
Despite some heavy fighting in the eastern Donbas region, the war has entered something of a stalemate in recent months since Ukraine retook the southern city of Kherson.
Ukraine seeks military aid to fight Russia
Ukraine is keen to secure more Western military aid to fend off much larger Russian forces. It has already won pledges of tanks and now wants more.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described media reports about planned new U.S. military assistance to Ukraine as “a direct path to inciting tensions and taking the escalation to a new level.”
“It will require additional efforts on our part, but it won’t change the course of events,” he told reporters.
Members of the NATO alliance are unsure of whether to send fighter jets to Ukraine. For now, the US and UK have rejected the idea but Poland and France are more receptive.
Since the Russian invasion began in February of last year, Western governments have spent billions of dollars on military aid for Ukraine. This month, Ukrainian diplomat Vadym Omelchenko was able to reveal that Ukraine was expecting a delivery of over 300 tanks sent by several Western countries.
Now, Ukrainian officials have been stepping up calls for the delivery of fighter jets. Thus far, neither side has been able to establish air superiority but effective control of the airspace over Ukraine could significantly impact the outcome of hostilities.