Day 349 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv Expects a New Russian Offensive Very Soon

World » UKRAINE | February 7, 2023, Tuesday // 11:53
Bulgaria: Day 349 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv Expects a New Russian Offensive Very Soon @Polskie Radio

Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:

Ukraine expects a new Russian offensive

Ukraine expects a new Russian offensive in the eastern part of the country. According to the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, Russia is sending reinforcements to eastern Ukraine, where positional battles have been going on for months.

"Russia is stockpiling more and more ammunition. We are no longer under round-the-clock shelling. They are gradually saving resources, preparing for a full-scale offensive," Haidai told Ukrainian television. He suggested the Russian offensive could begin within days, not ruling out Moscow using the upcoming February 24 anniversary of the Russian invasion.

The spokeswoman for Ukraine's Southern Operations Command, Nataliya Khumeniuk, noted that Russian forces are likely concentrating on launching offensive operations in the east, rather than in southern Ukraine.

Kyiv is also planning a spring offensive to retake the occupied territories, but is waiting for the delivery of promised longer-range Western missiles and tanks. "This is exactly what Russia is trying to get ahead of," an adviser to the Ukrainian army, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Financial Times.

Russia is gathering troops in Ukraine, an attack is expected from the east and the south

Russia is sending reinforcements to eastern Ukraine ahead of a possible new offensive, a Ukrainian governor said, but British military intelligence said it was unlikely Russia would have enough forces to significantly influence the course of the war in the coming weeks, Reuters reported.

Desperate for Western military aid promised to Ukraine, Russia is likely to launch a major offensive around the February 24 anniversary of the start of the war.

"Most likely, it will take them 10 days to gather reserves. After February 15, we can expect (this offensive) at any time," Haidai told Ukrainian television

The war is reaching a tipping point as it nears its first anniversary, with Ukraine having not regained territory for months, while Russia is moving ahead with the transfer of hundreds of thousands of mobilized reservists.

British military intelligence said in its daily report on Tuesday that the Russian army may have tried since early January to resume major offensive operations aimed at retaking Ukrainian-held parts of Donetsk.

Where is the Russian attack expected to come from?

However, Russian forces have gained little ground because they "lack the ammunition and maneuver units necessary for a successful offensive," the statement said.

"Russian leaders are likely to continue to demand massive advances. It remains unlikely that Russia will be able to build up the necessary forces to significantly affect the outcome of the war in the coming weeks," the British military intelligence analysis said.

Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksiи Reznikov told Ukrainska Pravda over the weekend that intelligence suggests the new Russian offensive is likely to come from the east or south.

"Their dream is to expand the land corridor to Crimea to continue supplies. So, of course, the key risks are: east, south and then north," he said.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleksandr Kovalenko believes a new Russian offensive could come from Luhansk, Donetsk or Zaporizhzhia regions, or from the port city of Mariupol.

"Things are more serious in the Donetsk region, especially around Bakhmut and Avdiivka. And the Russians will increase their contingents there, as well as equipment and parachute troops," Kovalenko told Ukrainian radio NV.

For months, Russia's main target in eastern Ukraine has been Bakhmut, where the "Wagner" mercenary group has gained a foothold. Ukraine said on Monday night that Russian forces had been practicing tank, mortar and artillery fire there over the past 24 hours.

According to Kovalenko, Mariupol, captured by Russian forces in May, could be used by the Russians to bring in troops and equipment for a new offensive.

"It could serve as a transportation hub for the Russian occupation forces," he said.

According to him, Ukraine's counteroffensive will not happen soon and Ukrainian forces will take a defensive position, especially in Donetsk.

"This may be an active defense, but still a defensive position. The idea will remain to block any Russian advance," the analyst believes.

"Things can change faster in other sectors. But this situation can last two to two and a half months - this is the time needed to provide the tanks for brigades, train and equip everything," Kovalenko was quoted as saying by Reuters.

More than 7150 are the civilian victims in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion

A total of 7,155 are the civilian victims in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, according to a report published yesterday by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

As of February 5 this year 18,817 civilians were injured.

In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, 4,172 people were killed. In the territories controlled by Kyiv, they were 3,665, and in the territories controlled by Russia – 507.

The majority of civilian casualties were killed by artillery fire, rocket launchers, rockets and airstrikes, the report said.

Russia builds defense facilities at Zaporizhzhia NPP

Construction of protective structures for key facilities at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine is nearing completion, Russian state news agency TASS reported on Tuesday, citing an adviser to the head of Rosatom, the operator of Russian nuclear plants.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, was seized by Russian troops in March, in the first days of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, but Russia retained its personnel, Reuters recalled.

The plant remains close to the front line and has been repeatedly shelled, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.

"The construction of engineering and construction structures, which are designed to provide additional protection of important infrastructure sites of the nuclear power plant, including those related to the storage of radioactive materials, is at the stage of completion," TASS quoted Renat Karchaa as saying.

The announcement does not make it clear about the nature of the structures, writes Reuters, citing TASS.

In December, Russia said it had placed a shield over a spent nuclear waste storage facility at the plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is working to establish a safe zone around the plant, but said brokering a deal with Moscow and Kyiv was becoming increasingly difficult. IAEA Director Rafael Grossi is expected in Moscow today, but is not expected to meet with President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said.

Karchaa said there had been no shelling of the Zaporizhzhia NPP since the beginning of the year.

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Rosatom of abducting children of Ukrainians working at the nuclear plant in order to keep them subservient and accept Russian citizenship.

Zaporizhzhia is one of four Ukrainian regions that were unilaterally annexed by Russia, which considers them part of its territory but is not recognized as such internationally.

The EU has confirmed that Zelensky has been invited to the summit in Brussels

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to a summit of European Union leaders, the EU said on Monday, after the Financial Times reported on Monday that he would be in Brussels as early as this week.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council of National Leaders of the EU, has invited Zelensky "to personally participate in a future summit meeting", Michel's spokesman wrote on Twitter.

He added that for security reasons no further information will be published on whether Zelensky will accept the invitation and when he will arrive.

European leaders are meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday this week, and Ukraine will be one of the main topics of the discussion, where illegal migration and support for the European economy will also be discussed amid the coming into effect of subsidies for American businesses that will affected its competitiveness.

EU officials noted that if news of such a visit leaked in advance, it could pose a major security risk to Ukraine's wartime leader and reduce the chances of him making the trip.

Zelensky's office did not respond to a request for comment, Reuters reports.

If Zelensky does visit Brussels this week, it will be his second trip abroad since the start of the war, following a visit to the US in December.

Borrell: The EU expects Russia to lose 300 million euros per day due to oil sanctions

In the last few months, the European Union (EU) has managed to reduce its dependence on Russian energy resources,” said the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell. He said that the EU expects Russia to lose around 300 million euros per day due to restrictions on the import of its oil and oil products.

In an article for La Vanguardia, Borrell stated that Russian oil is now selling at a $40 discount to the price of Brent. According to him, the anti-Russian sanctions are yielding results and "the war is costing the Kremlin dearly". "It is expected that Russia's daily revenues from energy services will drop from around 800 million euros to 500 million euros after the entry into force of our latest measures this month," the diplomat said.

The embargo on Russian oil came into force on December 5, and from that day the price ceiling for oil from Russia was set at $60 per barrel. In addition, the EU embargo on Russian oil products entered into force on February 5. The price cap costs Russia 160 million euros ($172 million) a day, according to the Helsinki-based Center for Energy and Clean Air Research. The International Energy Agency estimates Russia's losses in January at $8 billion. In February, the EU also approved a price ceiling for oil products from Russia at $100 per barrel.

UN Secretary-General fears the world is heading for 'bigger war'

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that a further escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict could mean the world is heading for a "bigger war", the Guardian reported.

The Secretary-General outlined his priorities for the year in a speech to the UN General Assembly that focused on Russia's invasion, the climate crisis and extreme poverty.

Guterres noted that top scientists and security experts set the doomsday clock to just 90 seconds before midnight last month. The team announced that humanity is dangerously close to a catastrophic catastrophe, as never before since the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.

The Secretary-General emphasized that he took this as a warning sign.

"We need to wake up - and get to work," he added as he read off a list of pressing issues for 2023.

At the top of the list was Russia's war in Ukraine, which is approaching its first anniversary.

"Prospects for peace continue to diminish. The risk of further escalation and bloodshed continues to grow," he said.

"I fear that the world is not entering a larger war blindly, but that it is doing so with its eyes wide open," Guterres added.

He mentioned other threats to peace, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Sahel and Haiti.

"If every country fulfills its obligations under the (UN) Charter, the right to peace will be guaranteed," Guterres said.

He added that it was "time to transform our approach to peace by recommitting to the charter - putting human rights and dignity first, with prevention at the core".

More broadly, Guterres decried the lack of "strategic vision" and the "bias" of people making short-term political and business decisions.

"The next poll. The next tactical political maneuver to cling to power. But also the next business cycle - or even the next day's stock price. "This short-term thinking is not only deeply irresponsible - it is immoral," he added.

Underscoring the need to act with future generations in mind, the Secretary-General reiterated his call for a "radical transformation" of global finance.

"Something is wrong with our economic and financial system," Guterres said, blaming it for the increase in poverty and hunger, the widening gap between rich and poor and the debt burden of developing countries.

"Without fundamental reforms, the richest countries and people will continue to accumulate wealth, leaving crumbs for the communities and countries of the Global South," he added.

Climate change

Guterres also issued a warning to companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels, "Reuters" reported, quoted by BTA. “I have a special message for those involved in fossil fuel extraction and their collaborators trying in every way to expand production and amass monstrous profits: If you cannot commit to a credible course of zero emissions, such as with the 2025 targets and 2030 your business is over, you shouldn't be in business,” Guterres said.

"Your core product is our core problem. We need a renewable energy revolution, not a revival of the self-destructive use of fossil fuels," he added.

Countries are under pressure to halve their emissions by 2030 and reach zero emissions by 2050, the only path to limiting global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius, Reuters noted, noting that Guterres will convene a summit on climate goals in September this year.

Guterres took office on January 1, 2017 and is currently at the end of his second 5-year term. During his administration, he insisted on changes in global financial institutions in favor of developing countries and gave voice to the fight against climate change, the agency recalls.

About 50 billion euros is the total value of European aid to Ukraine

"Through the civil protection mechanism, the EU has so far mobilized 27 search and rescue teams, including medical teams. Specifically, about 1,150 rescuers and 70 rescue dogs have been sent. 19 European countries have joined the rescue operations. Bulgaria has sent 2 teams, which are already on site and are actively participating in the rescue operations".

Sonya Gospodinova, spokeswoman for the European Commission, stated this to the BNR regarding aid to Turkey after the devastating earthquake.

According to her, the main role of the mechanism is to coordinate and avoid duplication of efforts.

The mechanism also includes the delivery of humanitarian aid, she added and pointed out that the EU is ready to help those affected.

As part of the mechanism, the EC also activates the system that has satellites - "Copernicus", said Gospodinova and explained:

"They provide their maps made by this system in emergency situations. So trouble spots can be identified very quickly and victims can be found much faster."

Regarding the EU's aid and commitment to Ukraine, where during the holidays almost the entire composition of the European Commission went, Sonya Gospodinova stated that the visit to Kyiv had a mainly symbolic role - to give a strong signal of the EC's unwavering commitment to support Ukraine while it is necessary.

The President of the EC announced a new aid package for Ukraine, she recalled. According to her, the total value of the aid that the EU has provided to Ukraine since the beginning of the war amounts to about 50 billion euros.

Ukraine has been a candidate country for EU membership since last year, Gospodinova recalled and explained:

"The accession date depends exclusively and entirely on the efforts and progress of the specific country. It depends on Ukraine how quickly it will deal with various problems and how it will be able to implement the reforms that have been started."

She described the Union's sanctions as effective.

The Czech Republic opposes the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus in Paris 2024

The Czech Olympic Committee and the country's government criticized the idea of participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus in the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 under a neutral flag.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said late last month that it was considering options to allow athletes from both countries to enter the French capital regardless of international sanctions imposed on them after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The IOC's statement caused reactions in both directions - while the USA is "for" the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes, most countries in Europe are against the idea.

"Russian and Belarusian athletes cannot participate in the Olympic Games. We see no reason to change the current sanctions," the Czech Olympic Committee said in a statement. It added, however, that there would be no pressure on Czech athletes to boycott the Olympics, an option discussed by several Eastern European countries, including Ukraine and Estonia. "Of course, we will respect the will of each athlete if he decides not to be part of the Games," added the committee.

"I cannot imagine Russian and Belarusian athletes participating in Paris at a time when Ukrainian athletes are losing their lives while defending their homeland. Under these conditions, the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games does not sound like a good idea to me," commented the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Fiala.

Kremlin allies invest in UK property

Almost 52,000 properties in the UK are owned by anonymous investors, including some "close to the Kremlin", AFP reported, citing data from a new report.

Properties worth a total of more than £6.7 billion were bought "with dubious means" through "secretive offshore companies", says a report by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International UK.

More than a fifth, or 1.5 billion pounds, was invested in properties with "questionable funds from Russia, including from individuals who are subject to sanctions and are close to the Kremlin," the organization added.

Last year, Britain launched a legal battle against Russian money coming from shell companies, tax havens and opaque ownership structures.

It was part of wider economic sanctions since Moscow launched its assault on neighboring Ukraine almost a year ago.

In August, the government launched a new "Register of Foreign Entities" requiring foreign companies to declare the ultimate beneficiary of any property they own in the UK.

According to activists, however, the registry remains open to abuse.

The Transparency International report says more than 18,000 offshore companies own a total of almost 52,000 properties in England and Wales.

These companies "either ignored the law altogether or provided information that made it impossible for the public to know who owned them," the report added.

"This includes firms reported to be owned by kleptocrats, oligarchs and sanctioned individuals."

The organization added that Britain remains a "hub" for illicit money and called on the government to take more action.

"Transparency about who really owns property here is vital to tackling Britain's role as a global hub for dirty money," said Duncan Haymes, the group's political director.

"Our analysis reveals that there are too many companies that may be trying to circumvent the laws, not know they exist, or ignore them altogether."

"Without action by Parliament to address loopholes in the law and proactive enforcement ... this promising reform will not achieve its goal of providing fewer places for corrupt wealth to hide."

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