Ukraine‘s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russia is planning to call up more troops for a major new offensive, even as Moscow faces some of its biggest internal criticism of the war over a Ukranian missile strike that killed scores of fresh conscripts on new year’s eve.
Kyiv has been saying for weeks that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to order another mass conscription drive and shut his borders to prevent men from escaping the draft.
“We have no doubt that the current masters of Russia will throw everything they have left and everyone they can round up to try to turn the tide of the war and at least delay their defeat,” Zelenskyy said.
“We have to disrupt this Russian scenario. We are preparing for this. The terrorists must lose. Any attempt at their new offensive must fail.”
Russia’s defence ministry on Wednesday December 4, blamed mobile phone use by its soldiers, for a Ukrainian strike on New Year’s Eve it said had killed 89 servicemen, the deadliest incident Moscow has acknowledged for its troops since the start of the war.
Ukraine initially said hundreds of Russians were killed in Makiivka, and it also killed large numbers of Russian troops in a similar attack at a separate base in southern Kherson province the same night, which Moscow has not confirmed.
Hundreds of thousands of men fled Russia when Putin ordered the first call-up of reservists since the Second World War in September after military setbacks.
Putin said last month there was no need for further mobilization, but it seems the Kremlin may now be considering one. A little known group claiming to represent widows of Russian soldiers released a call on Tuesday for Putin to order a large-scale mobilization of millions of men.
Russia has effectively shut down all direct opposition to the war, with open criticism banned by severe media rules. But it has given comparatively free rein to pro-war bloggers, some with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.
Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine on Feb. 24, citing threats to its own security and a need to protect Russian speakers. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an unprovoked war to seize territory.