Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Russia may be regrouping and readying to carry out “powerful strikes” in the country’s east and south, including the besieged city of Mariupol.
During peace negotiations this week, Russia announced that it would scale back attacks on Kyiv and Chernihiv, but Ukrainian and western officials have dismissed the pledge, saying Moscow’s troops were merely reconsolidating before attacking again.
According to a report in Moscow Times, Zelensky referred to Russia’s reported withdrawal as “part of their tactics” in a late-night address.
“We know that they are moving away from the areas where we are beating them to focus on others that are very important… where it can be difficult for us,” he said.
He added, “In Donbas and Mariupol, in the Kharkiv direction, the Russian army is accumulating the potential for attacks, powerful attacks.”
Media reports state that Washington has seconded the assessment, with a senior US defense official saying Russia’s focus on Donbas may indicate a “longer, more prolonged conflict”.
Military experts suggest that Russia may be abandoning efforts to simultaneously move forward along multiple platforms in the north, east and south, after encountering stronger-than-expected Ukrainian resistance.
Instead, it seeks to create a long-sought link between Crimea, which Moscow occupied in 2014, and the two Russian-backed Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.