Los Angeles Times

Ukrainians bracing for a new offensive

Russia is assembling additional combat power, officials say.


KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with fighting in the Donbas region as Moscow assembles additional combat power there for an expected offensive in the coming weeks, Ukrainian officials said Monday.

Weeks of intense fighting continued to rage around the city of Bakhmut and the nearby towns of Soledar and Vuhledar, Ukraine’s presidenti­al office said.

The towns are in the country’s eastern Donetsk region, which with neighborin­g Luhansk makes up the Donbas, an industrial area bordering Russia.

“The battles for the region are heating up,” Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks, adding that “the Russians are throwing new units into the battle and eradicatin­g our towns and villages.”

In Luhansk, Gov. Serhiy Haidai said shelling there had subsided because “the Russians have been saving ammunition for a large-scale offensive.”

Military analysts say the Kremlin’s forces may be probing Ukrainian defenses for weak points or could be making a feint while preparing for a main thrust through southern Ukraine.

David Arakhamia, who leads Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party in parliament, said Sunday that Kyiv is preparing for a Russian offensive while planning to counteratt­ack and reclaim its occupied territory.

Arakhamia, noting that “time and circumstan­ces call for strengthen­ing and regrouping,” had also announced that Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov would be moved to another government post and replaced by the head of military intelligen­ce, Kyrylo Budanov. But Arakhamia abruptly changed course Monday and said no shakeup would happen this week.

Mariana Bezuhla, a Servant of the People party lawmaker, said officials decided to postpone the reshuff le following the analysis of “risks for the system as a whole” ahead of next week’s meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organizati­on allies.

One of Reznikov’s deputies recently lost his job amid Zelensky’s crackdown on corruption. Reznikov said over the weekend that he was ready to step down if Zelensky decided it best.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is hungry for some battlefiel­d success, especially securing illegally annexed territory in eastern Ukraine, to mark the anniversar­y of his invasion Feb. 24.

Russian forces made gains in the first few months of the war, though they failed to clinch key objectives and were then driven back from large areas by a Ukrainian counteroff­ensive.

The government of Norway aims to donate $7.3 billion in a multi-year support package to Ukraine, making the oil-rich Scandinavi­an country one of the world’s top donors.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said Monday that the money would be used for a military and civilian aid package over a fiveyear period once parliament gives its approval.

Western military help has been essential for Kyiv. Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand tweeted late Sunday that the first Leopard tank Canada is donating to Ukraine had arrived in Poland. It is part of a broad tank commitment by Ukraine’s Western allies to help it defeat Russia.

Training for the Ukrainian military in how to use the tank was due to begin soon, Anand said, as the allies race to get Ukraine’s forces ready before the looming offensive.

Ukraine’s presidenti­al office said Monday that at least one civilian had been killed and 10 others were wounded by Russian shelling during the previous 24 hour-period.

Five of those wounded were injured during the shelling of Kharkiv city, where Russian shells struck residentia­l buildings and a university, the presidenti­al office said.

The Russians again fired at targets across the Dnipro River from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzh­ia nuclear power plant, damaging residentia­l buildings and power lines in Nikopol and Marhanets across the river, Ukrainian authoritie­s reported.

Russian forces overran the Zaporizhzh­ia plant early in the war.

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