The USA and Kyiv warn of a new Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine

There were signs on Monday that Russia is nearing a significant new offensive in eastern Ukraine, as US defense officials reported that troops withdrawn from Kyiv and surrounding areas were being resupplied and reinforced by the Kremlin for deployment in the Donbass region .

Although Ukrainian officials have already reported escalating Russian bombing raids in the region – including those of the last week beat at the Kramatorsk train station, killing more than 50 civilians — a senior Pentagon official said the US did not believe “a new offensive has begun.”

“As the fighting takes place, they are working to strengthen and expand their capabilities,” the official said.

Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, the spokesman for Ukraine’s defense ministry, said his government believes Russia has almost completed preparations for a new offensive in the south and east.

“We predict that in the near future active hostilities will begin in these areas,” added Motuzyanyk. “The enemy has almost completed preparations for offensive operations.”

The change in Russian tactics, which included the appointment of a new military commander for the Ukrainian invasion, has coincided with renewed efforts to resupply Ukraine’s armed forces, even as some EU leaders are trying to negotiate a diplomatic end to the conflict.

Karl Nehammer, the Austrian Chancellor, traveled to Moscow on Monday for the first visit by a European leader to the Kremlin since the invasion began six weeks ago. Nehammer said he had a “direct, candid and tough” 75-minute conversation with Vladimir Putin, the Russian President.

Nehammer said he had received no indication that Putin was withdrawing from Russia invasion of UkraineHe added that he “didn’t get a positive impression” from Putin during the meeting.

Despite some dismay over Nehammer’s visit to several EU capitals, Ukrainian officials have become increasingly optimistic about the financial and military support they have received, including visits to Kyiv in recent days by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister.

Mykhailo Podolyak and adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Western determination appeared to have strengthened following evidence of mass killings, executions, torture and rape of civilians in Bucha and other regions from which Russian forces have withdrawn.

Still, the Ukrainian government remains concerned that Russia could renew an attack on Kyiv if it succeeds in a new offensive in Donbass and other southern and eastern regions.

“The question of a possible resumption of the enemy attack on the capital will depend on the fighting that will take place in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” Motuzyanyk said.

Nehammer said he made it clear to Putin that the EU remains united in maintaining and tightening sanctions until the Russian president reverses course on Ukraine.

Much of Russia’s efforts in recent days have focused on the Donbass region, the senior US defense official said. The US sees evidence that some of the forces that left Kyiv and went to Belarus for supplies are beginning to move east. Russia is also attempting to move some forces south from Russia’s Valuyki, where troops have also been resupplying.

Russia is also beginning to reinforce some of its positions southwest of Donetsk, mainly with artillery units, the senior official said.

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Adam Bradshaw

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