Russia’s feared new offensive has already begun says NATO chief, as he warns Ukraine is using more munitions than military alliance is producing
- Moscow has been widely thought to be planning a new major assault on Ukraine
- Kyiv is calling for more military hardware to counter this and regain territory
Russia’s feared new major offensive in Ukraine has already started, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday, and warned that Ukraine is using more munitions than the military alliance is producing.
‘We see no sign whatsoever that (Russian) president (Vladimir) Putin is preparing for peace (…) What we see is president Putin and Russia still wanting to control Ukraine’, he said, almost one year after Moscow launched the war in February 2022.
‘We see how they are sending more troops, more weapons, more capabilities.’
Russia is widely thought to be planning a major new offensive to regain the momentum in the war, which has been in a stalemate since Ukraine’s counteroffensives last year that recaptured vast swathes of its territory.
Ukraine says it needs main battle tanks, fighter jets and long-range missiles to counter this and to recapture more of its lost territory.
Russia ‘s feared new major offensive in Ukraine has already started, NATO ‘s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday, and warned that Ukraine is using more munitions than the military alliance is producing. Pictured: A Ukrainian tank rides to its position in the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region on Sunday
Pictured: A map from Britain’s Ministry of Defence showing the Russian lines of attack in Ukraine’s east, as Russia launches its major new offensive in another attempt to take the region
Stoltenberg said he expected the issue of aircraft to be discussed at the upcoming two-day meeting of NATO ministers of Defence starting Tuesday.
‘There is now a discussion going on also on the question of aircrafts and I expect that also to be addressed tomorrow at the meeting in Brussels’, he said.
He added that supplying aircraft to Ukraine whereas the country under attack by Russia needs urgent support on the ground.
Stoltenberg also stressed that NATO countries supplying fighter jets to Ukraine would not make NATO part of the conflict.
The former Prime Minister of Norway also called on NATO to ‘ramp up production’ of ammunition as Ukraine’s rate of usage is far outstripping current capacities and draining stockpiles.
‘The current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production. This puts our defence industries under strain,’ he said.
As the defence ministers prepare to meet, Ukraine’s presidential office said fierce battles continued to rage outside Bahkmut – as Russian forces pushed their advance on the eastern Ukrainian city with heavy shelling and infantry attacks.
At least five civilians have been killed and as many wounded in action across the war-torn country in the last 24 hours.
Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers walk along a street in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on Sunday
Pictured: A Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 flies over the front lines near Bakhmut on Sunday. Ukraine says it needs main battle tanks, fighter jets and long-range missiles to counter the new Russian offensive, and to recapture more of its lost territory
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg (pictured Monday) said he expected the issue of aircraft to be discussed at the upcoming two-day meeting of NATO ministers of Defence starting Tuesday
READ MORE: Russian tank is blown up by a landmine… before another suffers the exact same fate
The presidential office said the situation in Bakhmut’s northern suburb of Paraskoviivka is ‘difficult’ as Russian forces continue to pummel the area with ‘intense shelling and storming action.’.
The nearby town of Vuhledar is also under heavy bombardment.
Russian forces shelled a dozen cities and villages in the Donetsk region in the last 24 hours, including in Druzhkivka where a missile hit a hospital and in Pokrovsk where shelling damaged seven houses and a nursery school.
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said: ‘The shelling intensifies, and the Russians accumulate more forces for an attack on peaceful cities.
‘We’re seeing a very tough battle in which the Russians aren’t sparing neither themselves, nor us.’
In the neighbouring Luhansk region, Russian troops pulled back after several days of intense fighting near the key city of Kreminna, although they are not ‘running out of steam’, Governor Serhii Haidai told Ukrainian television.
In the partially occupied southern region of Kherson, artillery fire hit more than 20 cities and villages over the past 24 hours, including the regional capital of the same name which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in November.
Two men were killed in one of the villages when their car ran over a landmine.
Pictured: A Ukrainian tank is seen in position in the frontline in Bakhmut, Ukraine on Sunday
In the neighbouring Dnipropetrovsk region, Russian shelling of the city of Nikopol killed one person and wounded two others. The shelling also damaged a residential building, a water treatment facility and a college.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russian forces are bolstering defensive fortifications on the edge of the battlefront in southern Ukraine to protect their flank, despite their focus on the Donbas region.
‘This is demonstrated by continued construction of defensive fortifications in Zaporizhzhia and Luhansk oblasts and deployment of personnel,’ it said in a briefing on Monday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied on Monday that a second round of mobilisation is looming.
Although many people have fled Donetsk province where the bulk of the fighting is concentrated, those who opted to stay depend on sporadic aid deliveries of food and water.
In the city of Sviatohirsk, in northern Donetsk, the few residents who remain rely on volunteers from the organisation World Central Kitchen for food and supplies to cope with freezing temperatures. Sviatohirsk was liberated by Ukrainian forces in September.
On Sunday, the area was blanketed with snow, concealing the massive destruction from repeated bombardments and heavy fighting.
Standing by the ruins of the city council building, resident Valeriy Andrievskiy said the building used to be ‘beautiful’.
‘God forbid our forces retreat and we stay (behind enemy lines). God forbid. I will not survive this one more time,’ he said.
Pictured: A Ukrainian soldier walks along a fortified street in Bakhmut on Sunday
Walking near the ruins of her home, 80-year-old Tamara Yevdokimova said she had been ‘tortured’ by Russian forces.
‘I haven’t been able to hear for five months… They (Russians) have knocked my teeth out. What can I do?’ she said. In her yard were the burned-out remnants of a Russian tank.
People who left the front lines in search of safety continue are still struggling to adapt to a new life elsewhere.
In Kyiv, dozens of people from the Donbas, Kherson and Kharkiv regions are being helped by the Centre of Hope and Recovery, an organisation that provides temporary homes and meals.
‘These are people who have left in the past what they have earned for years, and this is a very traumatic experience,’ said head of the centre Anna Harkun.
They receive psychological and medical help, while volunteers help them find work and permanent lodging, she added.
Russian rockets destroyed the home of 80-year-old Anatoly Zakharenko in the Donetsk village of Terny.
His wife, daughter, and disabled granddaughter were all evacuated and are being helped in the city.
Missing his home town, he wrote a poem to ease the pain of displacement. ‘I will return to you, believe me,’ he said, reading it aloud.
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