On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu presented a timetable for the troop surge that the Kremlin outlined in December after a series of battlefield setbacks and criticism from Russian nationalists. The country’s army will grow to 1.5 million military personnel between 2023 and 2026 – compared to its current level of 1.15 million and one million at the beginning of 2022, Mr Shoigu said, according to state-run news agency TASS.
Russia will create new military districts in the regions around Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as an army corps in Karelia on the border with Finland, Mr Shoigu said. The country will also set up “self-sufficient” units in Russian-held areas of Ukraine, he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted by TASS on Tuesday as saying that Russian military suppliers continue to increase capacity, with many companies operating in multiple shifts or around the clock.
Russian officials have portrayed the military buildup and war in Ukraine as part of a direct confrontation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a claim the West strenuously denies.
“This is because of the war that Western countries are waging — a proxy war,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. “The security of our country must be guaranteed.”
Russian media have portrayed the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar as a key strategic outpost after Moscow claimed its forces had taken it in their first victory in months. Ian Lovett of the WSJ fact-checked the propaganda reports. Photo: Diana Chan
Representatives from more than 50 countries supporting Ukraine will gather in Ramstein, Germany, later this week to discuss supplies to Kyiv. The US-led assembly, known as the Contact Group, includes all North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries and key allies offering lethal and non-lethal assistance.
“Russia continues to act in ways that are almost unbelievable,” President Biden said Tuesday.
Meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the White House, Biden said the two nations were working to ensure “we have a coherent European response” to Russia’s war.
Mr Rutte said the Netherlands intends to join the US and Germany in helping Ukraine’s armed forces use the Patriot missile defense system. He said he discussed the system with Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier in the day.
The question for Ukraine depends on how quickly and in what quantities its key allies will deploy heavy equipment, including tanks, to support its advance into Russian-held areas and push back Moscow’s forces occupying tracts of land, particularly in the east of the country.
German officials said they would only send main battle tanks and authorize third-country exports to Ukraine as part of a joint NATO effort. Mr. Scholz is under pressure to rebuild a German military weakened by years of underspending and to increase arms shipments to Kyiv.
“Russia is preparing a new attempt to take the initiative in the war,” Mr. Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on Monday evening. “This only underscores the importance of coordinating our efforts… and accelerating decision-making.”
Last week, Mr Shoigu appointed Russia’s chief of staff, General Valery Gerasimov, to command Russian troops in Ukraine. He succeeds General Sergei Surovikin, dubbed “General Armageddon” by Russia’s war hawks for his brutal tactics, and appointed to command Russia’s forces in Ukraine three months ago.
Mr Zelenskyy’s renewed calls for help to oust Russian forces come as Ukraine continues to deny Moscow’s claims that Russia controls the eastern Ukrainian city of Soledar, a possible springboard for an expanded offensive on Bakhmut to the south. On Tuesday, Ukrainian forces said they repelled Russian attacks on 20 different settlements in the eastern Donbass region, including Soledar and Bakhmut.
Denis Pushilin, a Moscow-installed deputy in the Russian-controlled part of Donetsk region, said a clean-up operation was underway in Soledar, with the city’s train station and other key buildings under the control of Russian forces.
Clean-up operations in eastern Donetsk on Monday, where some areas are under Russian control.
Photo: Nikolai Trishin/Zuma Press
A man collected emergency supplies in Dnipro, Ukraine, where a residential building was hit by a Russian missile on Saturday.
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Robert Brovdi, a Ukrainian serving in a drone unit in Soledar, dismissed claims that Soledar was under complete Russian control as Russian propaganda. He said parts of the Russian-held city were being successfully attacked by his unit. “We conduct strikes on Soledar every day,” he said in an interview with Ukrainian television.
The Russian force storming the city is made up mostly of units from the Wagner Group, a paramilitary force that recruits thousands of inmates from Russian prisons for the war in Ukraine and promises them amnesty in exchange for six months of service on the brutal front has . Mr Brovdi, who is watching Soledar from drones, said he saw no regular Russian troops in the city, only Wagner mercenaries.
In Dnipro, a major city in eastern Ukraine about 240 kilometers west of Soledar, emergency services continued digging through the rubble of a residential building on Tuesday that was hit by a Russian missile on Saturday.
Valentyn Reznichenko, the head of the surrounding Dnipropetrovsk region, said the rescue teams’ work was 90 percent complete after 63 hours. The death toll was 40, he said, with 79 injured, including 16 children, and 25 residents of the building who are still missing.
In his speech on Monday evening, Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian security services were gathering information on the identity of Russian servicemen who prepared and carried out the Kh-22 anti-ship missile attack. “There is no doubt that anyone complicit in this war crime will be identified and held accountable,” he said.
In Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, the region’s governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Tuesday night’s shelling damaged electrical power lines and left some residents without electricity. Local residents reported explosions, which Gladkov said were due to the interception of projectiles by the city’s air defenses. He did not say who was responsible for the shelling.
—Ken Thomas contributed to this article.
Write to Matthew Luxmoore at [email protected]
Ukrainian soldiers fired on Russian positions on the front near the town of Bakhmut in Ukraine on Sunday.
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