Russian forces have claimed a series of incremental gains in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, after around two months in which front lines had largely been frozen in place. In his evening address on 4 February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that the situation was getting tougher in the frontline cities in the east of the country. A UK Ministry of Defence intelligence update on 1 February said recent days have seen “some of the most intense shelling of the conflict” along the Dnieper River. “This has included continued shelling of Kherson city”, the ministry notes, adding that outside the Donbas, Kherson is the city most consistently shelled in the conflict
Meanwhile, Russian air attacks on Ukraine’s electricity grid appear to have slowed. Russia may be holding back some of its dwindling stock of missiles for the 24 February anniversary of its invasion, when Oleksii Reznikov, the Ukrainian Defence Minister, expects a major Russian offensive to take place. He said Russia would call on a large contingent of mobilised troops, and referring to the general mobilisation of 300,000 conscripted soldiers in September, he claimed that numbers at the border suggest the true size could be closer to 500,000.
Reznikov said on 3 February that the new tanks being supplied by NATO allies (see NATO Watch update 41) will serve as an “iron fist” in a counteroffensive by Kyiv to break through Russian defensive lines. Western supplies of 155-mm artillery would be vital for Ukraine to deter Russian attacks in the south and in the east, Reznikov said at a joint news conference with his Polish counterpart, Mariusz Błaszczak.
Read more in the attached pdf on: the recent EU-Ukraine summit; the supply of battle tanks to Ukraine, the debate on whether to supply combat aircraft, as well as other Western military and financial assistance; stalled diplomacy; the humanitarian consequences of the armed conflict; the risk of nuclear weapon use; investigations into alleged war crimes; sanctions against Russia; energy security in Europe; and developments in Ukraine, Russia and NATO, including tensions between Turkey and Sweden over the latter’s stalled NATO accession.