Ukraine anticipates a new major offensive from Russia as the fighting continues on its 349th day.

The conflict is reaching a pivotal point as its first anniversary approaches, with Russia pushing forward with hundreds of thousands of mobilised reserve troops.
The conflict is reaching a pivotal point as its first anniversary approaches, with Russia pushing forward with hundreds of thousands of mobilised reserve troops. (BENJAMIN WESTHOFF / Reuters Archive)

Tuesday, February 07, 2023 

Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have announced that they plan to provide Ukraine with at least 100 refurbished Leopard 1 battle tanks, a pledge that comes as Kiev anticipates a new Russian offensive around the anniversary of conflict.

The announcement followed Germany agreeing last month to allow deliveries of the more modern German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

In a joint statement, the defense ministers of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands said the shipment of the older Leopard 1 tanks was part of an effort “to support Ukraine in their endeavour to withstand Russian aggression.”

”(It) will significantly enhance Ukraine’s military potential for the restoration of their violated territorial integrity,” they said, adding that the delivery would occur “within the coming months” and include logistical support and training.

Ukrainian officials say they expect Russian forces to make a new drive in eastern and southern Ukraine, as the Kremlin strives to secure territory it illegally annexed in late September and where it claims its rule is welcomed.

Here are some other developments: 

14:06 GMT - Russia compares media ban in EU with Nazi restrictions

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson has compared a ban on Russian media in the EU with restrictions that were in place during the Nazi era in Germany.

Commenting on Telegram on remarks by EU top diplomat Josep Borrell, who called the ban of the Russian media "protection of freedom of speech," Maria Zakharova said members of the German Nazi Party also nullified civil liberties citing the necessity of "protection" as a reason.

"To justify the bans, the Nazis set fire to the Reichstag (government building), which allowed them to begin repressions against political opponents.

"Then they started burning books by objectionable authors. After that, an order was passed that every journalist of the Reich had to join the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party) in order to continue a professional activity. Then all authorities were obliged to subscribe to the Nazi press," she wrote.

12:23 GMT - Russia says advancing near Bakhmut in east Ukraine

Moscow has said that Russian forces were advancing towards Bakhmut and Vugledar, two key centres of fighting in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine, now the flashpoint of Russian offensives.

The comments come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned last week his forces would keep fighting for "fortress" Bakhmut as long as possible but urged the West to send more weapons so they could hold the city.

"Military operations are at the moment progressing with success in areas around Vugledar and Artemovsk," Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a meeting with defence officials, using the Russian name for Bakhmut.

1055 GMT - Russian reinforcements pour into eastern Ukraine - governor

Russia has been pouring reinforcements into eastern Ukraine ahead of a possible new offensive, said a Ukrainian governor.

Ukraine anticipates a major offensive could be launched by Russia for "symbolic" reasons around the February 24 anniversary of the conflict.

Ukraine is itself planning a spring offensive to recapture lost territory, but it is awaiting delivery of promised longer-range Western missiles and battle tanks and some analysts say the country is months away from being ready.

0359 GMT - Russia says protection around Zaporizhzhia plant near completion

Russia has demanded the US embassy in Moscow stop spreading what Moscow regards as fake news regarding its attacks in Ukraine and has threatened to expel US diplomats, the TASS news agency reported.

Citing a senior Russian foreign ministry source, TASS said on Tuesday an official note had been delivered to the US embassy in Moscow warning it that US diplomats engaged in what it called "subversive activities" would be expelled.

Lynne Tracy, Russia's news ambassador to Moscow, arrived in the Russian capital last month. 

0359 GMT - Russia says protection around Zaporizhzhia plant near completion

The construction of protective structures for key facilities at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeast Ukraine is nearing completion, Russia's state TASS news agency has reported, citing an adviser to the head of Russia's nuclear plants operator.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, was captured by Russian troops in March of last year, in the opening days of Moscow's attacks in Ukraine.

It remains close to the frontlines, and has repeatedly come under fire, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.

"The erection of engineering and construction structures, which are designed to provide additional protection for important infrastructure facilities of the nuclear power plant, including those related to the storage of radioactive materials, is at the completion stage," TASS cited Renat Karchaa of Russia's nuclear plants operator Rosenergoatom as saying.

2350 GMT – Russia says it probes Ukraine use of chemical weapons

Russia's state Investigative Committee has said that it was examining the alleged use of chemical weapons by Ukrainian forces near the eastern Ukrainian towns of Soledar and Bakhmut.

Ukraine's Armed Forces said they had never used chemical weapons anywhere at any time and accused Moscow of engaging in disinformation and of itself using banned weapons.

Russia's Investigative Committee said the Donetsk People's Republic, one of Russia's proxies in the territories it has seized and occupied, had reported the use of chemical weapons by Ukrainian drones near the two locations.

"As a result, servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces are experiencing a deterioration in their health and characteristic symptoms of poisoning," the committee said, without providing details or identifying any substance.

Ukraine's Armed Forces said they adhered to laws of war. "The enemy's accusations of the use of chemical weapons by units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are untrue," the public affairs office said in an emailed statement.

It went on to say Ukraine had never used such weapons "anywhere... at any time."

2345 GMT – Ukraine's Zelenskyy invited to take part in EU summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been invited to take part in a summit of European Union leaders, the EU said, amid reports he could be in Brussels as soon as this week.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council of the EU's national leaders, invited Zelenskyy "to participate in person in a future summit," a spokesman for Michel tweeted.

The spokesman, Barend Leyts, did not say when Zelenskyy might take up the invitation and specified that no further information would be provided "for security reasons".

The next EU summit takes place on Thursday and Friday of this week in Brussels.

For live updates from Monday (February 6), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies