Top Ukrainian security official says Russia preparing for ‘maximum escalation’ in the war
(CNN) — Russia is gearing up for a “maximum escalation” of the war in Ukraine, potentially as soon as the next few weeks, according to a top Ukrainian national security official.
“These will be defining months in the war,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told Sky News in an interview broadcast Tuesday.
“I’m conscious the main fights are yet to come and they will happen this year, within two to three months,” he said.
“Russia is preparing for maximum escalation. It is gathering everything possible, doing drills and training. When it comes to an offensive from different directions, as of now, I can say that we are not excluding any scenario in the next two to three weeks.”
Ukrainian officials have warned for some time of a renewed Russian offensive and have asked for more powerful weaponry from Western allies to counter the threat.
Following Danilov’s comments, a Ukrainian military spokesperson said Wednesday that there are signs Russia is preparing for a renewed offensive in southern Ukraine.
“Not just on land, but on the sea and in air as well,” Natalia Humeniuk, head of the United Coordinating Press Center of Security and Defense Forces of the South of Ukraine, said on national television.
Ukrainian intelligence had noted changes to the activity of Russian naval forces in the Black Sea, she added.
“It increases and decreases rapidly, and the missile carriers are moving back and forth,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Belarusian Defense Ministry on Tuesday said it would hold a further week of joint military drills with Russia.
“During the week, military representatives from the two countries will practice joint planning of the use of troops based on the prior experience of armed conflicts in recent years,” the ministry said in a statement.
In recent weeks Western allies, including Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, have promised to ship tanks to Ukraine to help its forces fight back against a Russian offensive that is expected to begin when weather conditions improve in the spring.
Germany has pledged to deliver an initial 14 Leopard 2 tanks, the UK has promised 14 Challenger 2 tanks and the US has committed 31 Abrams.
However delivering the tanks and training Ukrainian troops to use them will take time.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said its Leopard 2s will reach Ukraine by the end of March, while UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the Challenger 2s should be provided to Kyiv “this side of the summer.” And on January 26, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said that deliveries of the Abrams tanks will take “months.”
Ukrainian officials have also asked for fighter jets, but their plea has so far gone unanswered.
On January 30, US President Joe Biden reiterated that Washington would not send its F16 fighter jets to Ukraine, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also said that he does not envisage providing warplanes to Kyiv.