News that the U.S. could soon send rockets that would nearly double the range of Ukrainian forces would give Kyiv a big lift on Wednesday, even as Ukrainian forces were being pushed back by a relentless Russian winter offensive in the east. rice field.
A new $2 billion U.S. military aid package announced this week will include for the first time a new weapon designed by Boeing, the Ground-Launched Small Caliber Bomb (GLSDB), two U.S. officials said.
Inexpensive glide missiles can hit targets more than 150 kilometers away, and the range of rockets launched by Washington’s HIMARS system last summer increased dramatically to over 80 kilometers, changing the face of war. changed.
This means that much of Russia-occupied Ukraine could soon be within range of Ukrainian forces, forcing Moscow to return some ammunition and fuel storage facilities to Russia itself. increase.
Russia is strong
The expected US announcement comes a week after the West pledged a number of advanced main battle tanks for the first time, a breakthrough in aid aimed at giving Kyiv the ability to retake occupied territories this year. .
But the new weapon is still months away, and meanwhile Russia is gaining momentum on the battlefield for the first time since mid-2022.
Russia is gathering military forces in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, local officials say. Kyiv is suspected of preparing an offensive in the eastern region in the coming weeks as the anniversary of the invasion of Moscow approaches.
Kremlin troops are evicting locals from their homes near Russian-held parts of the front line to prevent them from providing Ukrainian artillery with information on Russian troop deployments, said Luhansk governor Serhiy Khaydai. rice field.
“You have an active transfer [Russian troops] They are definitely preparing something on the Eastern Front in February,” Haidai said.
Military analysts expect a new offensive by Moscow forces to be imminent, with the War Research Institute in an assessment late Tuesday saying, “An imminent Russian offensive in the coming months is the most likely course of action.” It is.”
Battle of Bahmut intensifies from building to building
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that Russia could mobilize more than 200,000 personnel and continues to acquire weapons and ammunition through increased domestic production and partnerships with autocratic states. rice field.
The new attack could also coincide with Invasion Day on February 24th.
The Chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported on Wednesday that Russia is also pushing into the neighboring Donetsk region, particularly the key city of Bakhmut.
Moscow has announced advances to the north and south of the city of Bakhmut, a major target in recent months.
Troops were fighting from building to building in Bakhmut, aiming to advance just 100 meters a night, and the city was under constant Russian artillery fire, said a soldier from the Ukrainian unit of Belarusian volunteers. told Reuters from the city. Russian troops were about to surround it.
The city was literally a popular tourist destination for wine and roses, but is now the site of the longest fighting of the Russian war. Despite attempts to bomb, shell, and encircle Bakhmut over his six months, Russian forces have not conquered Bakhmut.
“This is Hell”
However, their scorched earth strategy made it impossible for civilians to appear to be living there.
Petro Voloshenko, a Ukrainian soldier known on the battlefield as a stone, cried out with emotion and indignation, saying, “It’s hell now. I can’t find enough words to describe it.”
A native of Kyiv, Voloshenko arrived in the region in August when the Russian offensive began.
I watched a city about 100 kilometers from the Russian border gradually turn into a dilapidated ruin. Most of the houses have been destroyed, leaving only a few thousand residents from the prewar 80,000 residents.
The city is constantly shuddering with the muffled sound of explosions, the whoosh of mortars, and a constant artillery soundtrack. Everywhere is a potential target.
According to Mykola Bielieskov, a research fellow at the National Institute of Strategic Studies of Ukraine, Bakhmut offers the only approach to Ukrainian-owned megacities in the region.
The most untrained Russians on the front line
Months of fighting had exhausted both armies. According to Voloshenko, Russia changed tactics in the fall, sending infantry instead of surveying the front lines primarily with artillery.
Bielieskov said the least trained Russians would force the Ukrainians to fire first, exposing the strengths and weaknesses of their defenses.
More trained units or mercenaries from the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company headed by a rogue billionaire, make up the rearguard, Bielskov said.
Bielieskov said Ukraine is making up for its lack of heavy equipment with people ready to fight to the end.
As a result, the fighting is believed to have resulted in appalling troop losses for both Ukraine and Russia.
Lawrence Friedman, Professor Emeritus of War, said, “Manpower is not a Russian problem, but in some ways a Ukrainian problem, and not only is the victim painful, but it is often Ukraine’s best military.” Studied at King’s College London.
“A symbol of Ukraine’s invincibility”
In January, Russian forces captured the town of Soledar, less than 20 kilometers away, but their advance was very slow, according to military analysts.
Bakhmut, which serves more as a fortress than a place where people visit, work and live, is under the full control of the Ukrainian military.
“Bakhmut has already become a symbol of Ukraine’s invincibility,” said Voloshenko. “Bakhmut is the heart of Ukraine, and the future peace of the no longer occupied city depends on the rhythm of its heartbeat.”
Watch | Resilience of Ukrainians in the Face of War:
Meanwhile, in Kyiv, Ukrainian officials continued what President Volodymyr Zelensky has touted as a sweeping wartime crackdown on corruption that could transform the country.
Two days before Kyiv held a summit with the European Union, separate raids were held at the tax office and the home of an influential former interior minister.
Ukraine sees Friday’s summit as vital to its hopes of joining a more urgent goal, the wealthy bloc, in the wake of Russia’s aggression, with more than a dozen officials resigned or fired last week. He also embarked on political restructuring.
Other developments related to War on Wednesday:
- Turkey is positive about Finland’s application for NATO membership but does not support Sweden’s proposal, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday. Of NATO’s 30 members, only Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify the membership of the Nordic countries.
- A spokesperson for Latvia’s Olympic Committee said Wednesday that it would not send athletes to the Olympics involving nationals of Russia and Belarus while the invasion of Ukraine was underway.
- On Wednesday, the Kremlin welcomed an offer by Russian company Fores to provide a $72,000 “bounty” to soldiers who destroy Western-made tanks on Ukrainian battlefields, saying it would spur victory for the Russian army. .