Ukraine says Russia plans new mobilization to “delay its defeat”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russia plans to send more troops into a major new offensive as Moscow faces its biggest domestic criticism of the war over an attack by civilians that killed dozens of conscripts.

Kyiv has said for weeks that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning another mass conscription campaign and border closures to prevent men from fleeing military service.

“We have no doubt that the current masters of Russia will throw everything they have and everything they can muster to change the course of the war and at least delay its defeat,” Zelensky said in a video speech on Tuesday night. .

“We must disrupt this Russian scenario… Any attempt at their new attack must fail.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday blamed mobile phone use by its soldiers in a New Year’s Eve offensive in Ukraine that killed 89 soldiers – the deadliest incident Moscow has acknowledged for its troops since the start of the war in February 2022.

If Russia is planning a new mobilization, the deaths of dozens of soldiers on New Year’s Eve could undermine morale. Hundreds of thousands of men left Russia after World War II when Putin ordered the recall of reservists in September following military setbacks.

A group of soldiers’ widows speak out

Putin said last month that no further mobilization was needed.

But in a sign that the Kremlin may now be considering one, a little-known group that claims to represent the widows of Russian soldiers called on Putin on Tuesday to mobilize millions of men. The Kremlin did not comment on this call.

“We ask our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin to allow the Russian military to carry out a large-scale mobilization,” the group “Widows of Russian Soldiers” said in a Telegram message.

Russia effectively ended all direct opposition to the war, with open criticism prohibited by strict media regulations. But that’s a relative release for pro-war bloggers, some of whom have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

Many are increasingly vocal about what they see as a half-baked and incompetent campaign – and they expressed their anger at this week’s New Year’s Eve strike that killed Russian soldiers stationed at a vocational school in Donetsk region.

Criticism has focused on military commanders rather than Putin, who has not publicly commented on the attack.

Armored vehicles from France

French President Emmanuel Macron told Zelensky that France will send AMX-10 RC light armored combat vehicles to help the war effort. the vehicles will be delivered to support the Ukrainian army.

Andrey Cherniak, an official of the intelligence department of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, said in a statement to RBC-Ukraine media that Kyiv does not expect defeat despite the loss of many lives in Russia’s attack this year. .

“According to the calculations of Ukrainian military intelligence, the Russian army may lose up to 70,000 people in the next 4-5 months. And the occupying country [Russia‚Äôs] management is ready for such losses,” Chernyak said.

Russian leaders “understand that they will win, but they do not plan to end the war,” he said.

Deployment of the Russian missile frigate

Signaling to the West that Russia will not withdraw from Ukraine, Putin announced on Wednesday that a frigate armed with a new generation of hypersonic cruise missiles capable of traveling at five times the speed of sound has been deployed to the Atlantic Ocean.

Putin spoke about the frigate during a video conference with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and ship commander Igor Krokhmal. Shoigu said that the ship will cross the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea in addition to the Atlantic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin participated in a video conference in Moscow on Wednesday with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Admiral Gorshkov, Commander of the frigate of the Soviet Union Navy, Igor Krokhmal. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin/The Associated Press)

The Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov of the Soviet Union Navy, believed to be armed with Zircon hypersonic weapons, departs Russia’s Severomorsk Naval Base. This footage from the video released on Wednesday. (Russian Defense Ministry/Reuters)

Later, the Russian Ministry of Defense released images showing the departure of the “Zirkon” hypersonic missile frigate from the Russian naval base in the city of Severomorsk, in the north of the Murmansk region.

Russia recorded 18 airstrikes and more than 85 rocket system attacks on civilian infrastructure in the cities of Kramatorsk, Zaporozhye and Kherson in the last 24 hours and launched 7 missile strikes.

The Kremlin denies deliberately targeting civilians.

Reports from the battlefield could not be independently confirmed by Reuters.

Ukraine’s General Staff also said Russian forces continued to advance near the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, where both sides are believed to have lost thousands of soldiers during weeks of intense trench fighting.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine said on Wednesday that border guards repelled a Russian attack near Bakhmut and captured enemy positions after a counterattack. He did not give specific details about the location of the confrontation.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said Russia will continue to train additional assault units and focus on capturing Bakhmut and other towns north of Donetsk.

Malyar, citing the ministry’s chief intelligence agency, wrote on Telegram that heavy Russian losses mean Moscow will have to announce a second partial mobilization in the first quarter of the year.

Temporary market in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
Shoppers are served at a temporary market in Bakhmut, Ukraine this weekend ahead of Orthodox Christmas. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

A senior US administration official in Washington said heavy fighting around Bakhmut is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, with the outcome uncertain as the Russians make gradual advances.

Russia launched what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, citing threats to its own security and the need to protect Russian-speakers. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of waging an unprovoked war to seize territory.

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