Russia is preparing for a major offensive in the first months of 2023 while continuing to attack Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Russia’s foreign minister said, as Western governments pledge to help fix the country’s shattered power system.
Russia has been unable to regain momentum after Ukrainian forces retook control of Kherson in November, Dmitro Kuleba told reporters Tuesday in an air-raid shelter in central Kiev. But Kiev is confident that Russian President Vladimir Putin will insist on a breakthrough soon.
“I think Russia’s ability to launch a massive offensive will probably come back sometime in late January, late February, but that’s what they’re trying to do,” Mr Kuleba said. “In the best case [for Russia], considering the mobilization, their declared conscription, the training of recruits and the movement of heavy weapons across the country, they must still hope to be able to break through our lines and penetrate deep into Ukraine. “
The Ukrainian government’s view is similar to NATO’s. Earlier this month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he believed Russia was trying to “freeze” the war “in order to regroup later and launch a larger offensive,” though he did not say what he thought time this could happen.
Mr Kuleba spoke about two hours after the air raid sirens sounded across the country. But there were no reports of the attack, with Ukrainian media saying the warning may have been sparked by Russian MiG fighter jets flying from Ryazan, near Russia’s border with Ukraine, to Belarus.
Mr Kuleba said Ukraine’s After Russia carried out six missile attacks on critical infrastructure since October 10, the immediate priority is to restore power to the country.
“The aim is to destroy Ukraine’s energy system, leaving millions of people without power, water and heating in the freezing cold,” he said. “Putin hoped that without electricity, water and heat, Ukrainians would stop resisting and accept Russia’s ultimatum, but this is a serious miscalculation. Russia’s missile terror will not destroy Ukraine.”
He called the Paris aid conference, aimed at raising emergency funds to help Ukraine survive the winter, a “huge success”.
At Tuesday’s event, 46 countries and 24 international organizations pledged more than 1 billion euros ($1.44 billion), French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonne said. The money will be used to repair energy and water networks and restore the sanitation, transport and food sectors. “It’s aid, or a gift in kind. It’s not a loan,” she said.
Tuesday Canada Announced $115 million donation Travel to Ukraine to repair the country’s power grid. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa will raise money from the 35 per cent tariff imposed earlier this year on imports from Russia and Belarus. Since the war broke out in February, Canada has provided $2 billion in direct aid to Ukraine and pledged $500 million in government-backed bonds.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking via video link to the Paris conference, said his country needed an extra 800 million euros to survive the winter and another 1.5 billion to repair long-term damage to the power system. He asked for a diesel generator to keep the lights on. “Every day, our engineers have to disconnect millions of Ukrainians for these repairs,” he said. “Currently, there are 12 million [disconnected]. We look forward to new Russian strikes every day. That’s why generators have become as important as protecting people’s relationships. “
Mr Kuleba, the foreign minister, actually admitted that Ukraine was depleting its weapons stockpile at an alarming rate as missile and artillery attacks by both sides continued.
He requested not only long-range missiles, but also 155mm field guns, one of the mainstays of Ukrainian ground forces’ defensive and offensive operations.
“The weapon we most need is more of a 155mm howitzer,” he said. “This war is very much an artillery battle, and Russia still dominates the battlefield with the number of cannons it uses and the number of shells those cannons fire.”
To help stem an expected Russian offensive in January or February, Mr Kuleba said Ukraine needed the 155mm weapon to destroy Russian targets in its occupied Ukrainian territory.