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Day 335 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Russian Forces prepare for a Decisive Counteroffensive in the Spring or Early Summer

24 януари 2023 17:56, Станимир Петков (Клуб на инвалидите - Сливен)
Излъчване: Туида Нюз преди 4 месеца, брой четения: 117

Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:


Russia sends three motorized infantry divisions to Ukraine

Russia is sending three new motorized infantry divisions to the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, announced the head of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, who has been in charge of military operations in Ukraine since last month. "Russia attacks without interruption the settlements on the front line," the Ukrainian president said in his traditional address.

The three new divisions in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions must defend the annexed territories, explained Gerasimov. He also added that the Russian army will adapt to the expansion of NATO after the admission of Sweden and Finland. According to Gerasimov, there is a danger that Ukraine will be used by the West in a "hybrid war" against Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address that Russia is continuously attacking the settlements on the front line. Heavy fighting is taking place in Donbas. "We see that Russia is amassing an army, but we know how to respond to that," assured Zelensky.

The debate over the delivery of battle tanks to Ukraine continues.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said progress had been made and "several small steps remain" before the delivery of German Leopard tanks. The High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security of the EU, Josep Borrell, emphasized after the meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs in Brussels that Germany does not block the export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine from other countries.

And the Rheinmetall concern, which produces the tanks, announced that it can deliver a total of 139 tanks of both modifications 1 and 2, but only at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. In addition, the concern is preparing 29 "Leopard 2" tanks within the framework of Germany's project to exchange Soviet-made tanks for Ukraine against the supply of modern weapons to fill the deficit. Such projects have been concluded with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Greece.


ISW: Russian forces are preparing for a decisive counteroffensive in the spring or early summer

Russian forces are preparing for a decisive offensive campaign in the spring or early summer of 2023, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its latest report, citing data obtained from Ukrainian intelligence. The data confirm the institute's previous findings based on open sources.

The representative of Ukraine's Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Vadim Skibitsky said as early as January 20 that the spring and early summer of 2023 will be decisive in the war and confirmed that the GUR has seen indicators that Russian troops are regrouping in preparation for "major offensive" in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Skibitsky also reiterated that it was unlikely that Russian forces would launch an attack from Belarus or southern Ukraine. ISW assesses that Russian forces may be preparing for a decisive effort (of an offensive or defensive nature) in Luhansk Oblast and observes a redeployment of conventional forces such as airborne units to the Svatove-Kreminna axis following the Russian withdrawal from Kherson Oblast.

ISW also maintains that it is highly unlikely that Russian forces plan to resume a new offensive in northern Ukraine from the direction of Belarus. Skibitsky’s assessments largely support ISW's current projections of Russian intentions in the first half of 2023 and underscore the continued need for support from Western partners to ensure that Ukraine does not lose the initiative in a renewed Russian offensive operation.

The Wagner group's over-reliance on prisoner recruitment appears to be taking an increasing toll on Wagner's fighting abilities. The head of the independent Russian human rights organization "Rus Sidyashchaya"/„Рус Сидящая“(Russia behind bars) Olga Romanova stated on January 23 that from approx. Of the 50,000 prisoners Wagner recruited, only 10,000 fought on the front lines in Ukraine due to high casualties, surrenders, and desertions. ISW cannot independently confirm these figures, but they are very plausible given Wagner's pattern of using prisoners as cannon fodder in highly exhausting offensive operations.

The institute notes that Russia continues to deepen military and economic ties with Iran in an effort to engage in mutually beneficial sanctions avoidance. Russian Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin met with Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on January 23 to expand bilateral cooperation efforts.

Ghalibaf noted that Moscow and Tehran should seek to strengthen ties in the banking, energy and commodity sectors in the face of US sanctions. Sources in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps further speculated on the issue of further military cooperation efforts between Tehran and Moscow. Corps-affiliated Tasnim News published an editorial alleging that a Russian-Iranian joint-production deal could allow Iran to obtain Russian Mi-28 and Ka-52 attack helicopters Both Tehran and Moscow are likely to seek such agreements to mitigate the pressure from the sanctions imposed against them by the US, ISW adds.


Rheinmetall can deliver 139 Leopard tanks to Ukraine

German arms company Rheinmetall can deliver 139 Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine if needed, a spokesman for the company told the RND media group, Reuters reported.

Berlin is under intense pressure from Ukraine and some NATO allies such as Poland to allow Kyiv to be supplied with German-made Leopard 2 tanks to defend against a Russian invasion.

Manufacturer Rheinmetall could deliver 29 Leopard 2A4 tanks by April/May and another 22 of the same model in late 2023 or early 2024, the spokesman said.

The delivery of 88 older Leopard 1 tanks is also possible, he added, without giving a time frame for this.

Meanwhile, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday that Warsaw will formally ask Berlin for permission to supply Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks, Politico reported.

"We will apply for such a permit," Morawiecki said during a press conference, without specifying the exact moment of the official request.

His remarks came after German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock signaled on Sunday that Germany would not stand in Poland's way if the country wanted to send tanks to Ukraine.

When asked what would happen if Poland sent its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine without German approval, Baerbock told French television LCI that "for the moment the question has not been raised, but if we were asked, we would not raise any obstacles."

However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's spokesman commented on Monday that Baerbock’s words did not represent an agreed government position.

Any upcoming Polish request to send Leopard tanks would first have to be discussed and decided by the German Security Council, a reduced cabinet that includes Scholz, Baerbock, as well as several other ministers.

There are "agreed procedures", the spokesman added, which appeared to suggest that Baerbock was expressing her own opinion rather than a government position.

However, if Germany rejects the request, Poland will try to hand over the tanks as part of a "small coalition", the Polish prime minister said.

Asked about this during a press conference in Paris on Sunday, Scholz dodged the question, stressing instead that Berlin had never stopped supporting Ukraine with arms supplies and made its decisions in cooperation with its allies.

During talks in Germany last week, the United States and its allies failed to agree on providing modern heavy tanks to the Ukrainian army, which it urgently needs to prepare for a new offensive in the spring.

Zelensky parted ways with a close associate, a jeep scandal at the root of the resignation

Volodymyr Zelensky's deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko resigned late Monday evening, Ukrainian media reported. The resignation coincided with the last evening statement of the Ukrainian president, in which he criticized the private trips of officials abroad and, in particular, the 10-day vacation of Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Simonenko in Spain. Shortly after, it became clear that Simonenko had been fired. In a video message on Telegram, President Zelensky announced that there will be large-scale personnel changes in the structures of the central government of Ukraine.

Behind Tymoshenko's resignation looms "dismissal at his own will" related to the improper use of a jeep received as humanitarian aid from General Motors. Earlier, the Ukrainian media several times drew attention to the fact that Andriy Yermak's deputy was riding in a black Chevrolet Tahoe jeep, which was handed over to Ukraine for the transportation of persons from the territories covered by military operations and for humanitarian missions.

As Andriy Yermak's deputy, Tymoshenko was responsible in the presidential office for the reconstruction of Ukraine and often traveled around the country in the new Chevrolet Tahoe. He himself did not refute media reports in October on this topic, but journalists emphasized that Kyiv asked the American car corporation to transport people from the war zone, and not for officials and administrative needs.

It is expected that the post of Kyrylo Tymoshenko will be filled by the previous head of the Kyiv regional military administration, Oleksiy Kuleba. According to media speculation, Tymoshenko will be sent as head of one of the regional administrations.

Also on Monday, the military governors of Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Sumy regions of Ukraine resigned.

The Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov released a one-sentence thunderbolt in Telegram that personnel changes were underway in Ukraine, and the media in Ukraine and Russia talked about a purge and a ban on the travel of state and local officials abroad on private matters.

In his statement on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky drew attention to the case of Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Simonenko, who at the end of last year, despite the presidential ban, went on a 10-day vacation to Marbella in Spain to celebrate the New Year there with his family. Simonenko traveled there in the car of the Lviv businessman and MP Grigory Kozlovsky, and Kozlovsky's bodyguard accompanied him on the trip.

"There is a principled decision of the National Security Council regarding the trips of officials abroad. It applies to all employees of the central administration and employees of the various levels of local self-government. This also applies to judicial authorities, civil servants, prosecutors and all those who have to work for the state and in the state," said Zelensky.

"If they want to rest now, they will rest outside the civil service. Officials will not be able to travel abroad on vacation or for any other non-state purpose," Zelensky stressed. On Monday, Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Simonenko was "asked" to write his resignation. His dismissal was confirmed by Verkhovna Rada deputy Yaroslav Zheleznyak. According to UNIAN, at least three ministers are expected to leave their posts by the end of the month.

In a statement on Telegram, Volodymyr Zelensky promised large-scale personnel changes in the structures of the central government. Some of the decisions are expected today, January 24, others have already been signed on Monday.

Ukrainians remember this Zelensky from the beginning of his presidential career, who went around state enterprises and customs, seizing the functions of the executive power, "kicking the cans" of self-forgetting officials and firing them all. During one of his visits to a customs office in Western Ukraine, he made everyone present show their mobile phones and then asked them where they got the money for such expensive devices with their salaries and directly asked them: "Why don't you get yourself fired?"


Zelensky banned officials and deputies from vacationing abroad

President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Tuesday that he would ban Ukrainian officials and lawmakers from vacationing abroad while the war continues after media reports surfaced about the vacations of officials at various levels.

The holiday scandal is one of several that have unfolded this week in government after it emerged that bribes were taken to secure generators and expensive food orders for the military.

"There is a decision in principle by the National Security and Defense Council regarding the departure of officials abroad. This applies to all central government employees, various other levels of local government, law enforcement officials, MPs, prosecutors and all those who have to they work for the state and in the state," Zelensky wrote on his Telegram channel.

The occasion is the photos that the wife of the deputy chief prosecutor Oleksiy Simonenko published from their ten-day New Year's vacation in the Spanish resort of Marbella. They appeared on several journalistic blogs and quickly gained wide circulation.

According to Ukrainska Pravda newspaper, Simonenko will leave his post as deputy chief prosecutor "of his own accord" after being asked to apply for it.

Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to issue a presidential decree banning members of the government and their deputies, the presidential office, other executive bodies, the security services, the national bank, the CEC, as well as members of the Verkhovna Rada, judges, prosecutors from traveling abroad if they were not posted.

Since the beginning of the war, scandals over the trips of deputies and officials have regularly accompanied media publications, reports RBC.

The heroine of the latest scandal is the screener of the border service of Ukraine Ivanna Plantovskaya, who published her photos from Paris on social networks.


Andrej Babis' speech about NATO angered Poland and the Baltic states

Poland and the Baltic states were outraged after Czech presidential candidate Andrej Babis said if elected he would not send troops to help them in NATO's collective defense, AFP reported.

Billionaire and former prime minister Babis is running for president and will face former NATO general Petr Pavel in a runoff on Friday and Saturday.

Asked during a debate on Czech TV on Sunday whether he would send troops if Poland or the Baltics were attacked, Babis said: "No, certainly not."

Aid to NATO allies is enshrined in Article 5 of the Treaty, which states that if one member is attacked, the other members must act as if they were also attacked.

"I want peace. I don't want war. And in no case would I send our children and the children of our women to war," said the 68-year-old populist.

He later tweeted that he had never questioned Article 5 and that his speech had been twisted.

Seen as a message to Czech voters worried about being drawn into Russia's war in Ukraine, it raised eyebrows in the three Baltic states and Poland.

"Andrej Babis's statements... are absurd and dangerous. They cast doubt on trust in NATO and cooperation," said Władysław Kosiniak-Kamisz, head of the Polish People's Party PSL.

"They can start opening the champagne in the Kremlin," he added.

Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said on state television that he hoped the remarks were "just a matter of political emotions during a debate".

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said Babis' words were the "worst example" of allowing domestic politics to interfere with security.

"I will only answer that Mr. Babis should be aware that Estonia will send its troops if the Czech Republic falls into a crisis," he said.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis also stated that "if Czech freedom, sovereignty or territorial integrity are ever challenged by an outside power, Lithuanians will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Czech people."

His Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkevič described the statement as "alarming".

"For any politician, such kind of comments, even based on domestic political considerations, go too far. This is not very responsible," he added.

Both Rinkevič and Reinsalu recalled that when Babis was prime minister, the Czech Republic sent its air force to patrol the airspace of the Baltic Sea as part of its NATO commitments.

Babis' rival for the presidency, Pavel, who was head of NATO's Military Committee from 2015-2018, said during the debate that Babis "probably lives in another world".


"If one member is attacked, the others come to the rescue, that's how NATO works," he added.


Russia introduces a "reservation" for leaving the country

Russia will require those wishing to leave the country to book a time and place if they plan to leave via a land border. This was reported by Reuters with reference to the Russian state news agency TASS.

"The crossing of vehicles ... for the purpose of crossing the state border of the Russian Federation is carried out on a reserved date and time in accordance with the procedure established by the government," the agency said later on Monday, citing a draft amendment to the transport law, which is expected to enter into force on March 1.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February last year, many Russian citizens have fled the country, with the number increasing significantly after a partial mobilization of around 300,000 people for the military was announced in September.

Many people took the opportunity to exit via Georgia and Kazakhstan by car, as they are not required to hold an international passport, and the authorities stopped issuing the document to conscripted men.

Although there are no exact totals, the number of Russians who have left could reach hundreds of thousands, according to media reports and data published by neighboring countries.

The amendments to the law on border crossings have been prepared by the committee on transport and infrastructure development of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, reports TASS. It is not specified when consideration of the proposal will begin.

Moscow announced it was ending troop recruitment for Ukraine as it secured the necessary numbers, but in late December Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to sharply increase the size of the Russian military and raise the conscription age, and the Kremlin said, that Vladimir Putin's decree on mobilization is indefinite.

Sofia Photo Agency