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KYIV, Ukraine — Moscow’s military is ramping up an offensive on the eastern front in what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described as the start of a new Russian offensive as Western allies deploy heavy weapons to help Ukraine retake occupied territories.

The two sides have been preparing for a more intense ground battle for months, with Moscow expected to press ahead with its goal of seizing the entire Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, while Kyiv aims to drive Russian forces out of the country entirely.

Now, with Russia shelling heavily at a rate not seen since September and sending tens of thousands of troops to test Ukrainian fortifications up and down the 140-mile front in the Donbass, Mr Zelensky said Russia stepped up its attacks to Get a head start.

“Russia really wants some kind of grand revenge,” Mr Zelensky said this week. “I think it’s already started.”

Andrei Yusov, who represents Ukraine’s defense ministry intelligence service, said he expected the fighting to intensify in February and March. “We are on the eve of a very active phase,” he said in an appearance on Ukrainian state television.

For nearly a year, Ukraine and Russia have been locked in an uphill battle. Since the autumn, while Ukraine has reclaimed territory by counterattacking in the northeast and south, the fighting in the east has congealed into muddy and frozen trenches, with each army inflicting heavy losses on the other for little gain.

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However, Ukrainian military officials say Russia has steadily increased its troop presence in Donbass since the Kremlin appointed Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov last month to take over its struggling war effort. Ukrainian intelligence estimates that Russia now has more than 320,000 troops in the country — roughly double the size of Moscow’s original invasion force. Western officials and military analysts have said Moscow also has between 150,000 and 250,000 reservists who are either in training or stationed in Russia ready to fight.

“We see that they are preparing for more wars, they are mobilizing more soldiers, more than 200,000, maybe even more,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday during a visit to South Korea . “They’re aggressively acquiring new weapons, more ammunition, increasing their own production, but also getting more weapons from other authoritarian countries like Iran and North Korea.”

The surge in Russian bombing was accompanied by a build-up of troops. Konrad Muzyka, a Rochan Consulting military analyst who tracks Russian deployments, said Russian shelling had reportedly increased from an average of about 60 a day four weeks ago to more than 90 a day last week, with 111 of them One Ukrainian location was targeted one day a day.

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He also said that “the Russians are removing a lot of equipment from storage areas.” However, he agreed with other analysts who believe that Russia will struggle to equip a large number of new soldiers with tanks, armored vehicles and other effective equipment.

How the Kremlin will ultimately deploy its tens of thousands of new fighters is also speculation.

According to Ukrainian officials and military analysts, Moscow may be preparing to open a new front across the Russian border to retake territory in Sumy or Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine. It could escalate fighting on the eastern front to divert Ukrainian resources and damage Kyiv’s ability to launch its own offensive. It may be planning to drive deep into the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that make up the Donbass from occupied territories in eastern Ukraine.

The only consensus is that Russia is not content with the territories it has captured and is sticking to its ultimate goal of conquering Ukraine. The intensifying attacks continued a nearly year-long Russian pattern of bleeding Ukrainian troops with relentless assaults.

The head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, told Sky News on Tuesday that he did not rule out “any situation in the next two or three weeks”.

“The main fight is yet to come,” he said.

Andrew Kramer Contribution report.

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