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Russia planning offensive on Feb 24: Ukrainian Defence Minister

Kiev, Feb 2 (IANS) Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that Russia is planning a major new offensive against the war-torn nation on February 24 to mark the first anniversary of Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Kiev.

The Minister made the remarks on Wednesday during a trip to France where he struck a deal to purchase additional MG-200 air defence radars, which he said would “significantly increase the capacity of the armed forces to detect air targets, including winged and ballistic missiles, and drones of various types”, the BBC reported.

Speaking to the French BFM network, Reznikov claimed that Moscow had mobilised some 500,000 troops for the potential offensive but also 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,” the BBC quoted the Minister as saying to BFM.

The Defence Minister further said that Ukraine’s commanders would seek to “stabilise the front and prepare for a counter-offensive”.

“I have faith that the year 2023 can be the year of military victory,” he said, adding that Ukraine’s forces “cannot lose the initiative” they have achieved in recent months.

Reznikov’s comments come as Ukrainian intelligence alleged that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his forces to seize Ukraine’s Donbas region before the end of spring.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said on Wednesday that intense fighting was continuing in Donbas, where Russian forces and Wagner Group mercenaries have been trying to take the town of Bakhmut, the BBC reported.

She added that Moscow’s troops were also trying to seize Lyman — the former Russian logistics hub that Ukrainian troops retook in October 2022.

“Russian troops are actively trying to reach the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” she wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“Our soldiers defend every centimetre of Ukrainian land.”

In his nightly video address to the nation, Zelensky warned that the situation on the front lines of the conflict was testing his forces.

“There is a certain increase in the occupiers’ offensive actions at the front, in the east of our country. The situation is becoming even more severe.

“The only way to stop Russian terrorism is to defeat it. By tanks. Fighter jets. Long-range missiles,” the President added.