Zelenskyy’s U.S. trip comes as Ukraine warns Putin is planning a major new offensive

Putin has spoken with rare candor about his military’s struggles in recent weeks, with the campaign stalled after being dealt severe blows by Kyiv’s recent counteroffensives. On Tuesday he said that the situation was “extremely difficult” in the four regions of Ukraine he claimed to have annexed earlier this year.

Asked whether anything positive could come from Zelenskyy’s trip to D.C. on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied simply: “No.”

Rather than planning a decisive new effort to change the shape of the war, Russia and Belarus were more likely getting together to discuss economic cooperation, said Samuel Ramani, an expert in politics and international relations at the University of Oxford.

“I think it’s much more likely the war is going to drag on in a stalemate with limited escalation,” he added.

Belarus was used as a staging point for Moscow’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor on Feb. 24, and it is a relatively straight shot north of Kyiv. While a second attempt to take Ukraine’s capital may seem outlandish, Ledwidge said a new Russian offensive of some kind did make sense.

“I don’t think there will be a direct attack on Kyiv, but there will be an attack in the next couple of months,” he said.

By February the ground will have hardened again, he said, making it easier to conduct operations just as Russia’s reservists are trained and ready to go.

“That’s the point at which they may become capable of offensive action again, which they’re not now,” Ledwidge added.

Keir Giles, a Russia expert at the Chatham House think tank in London, said that predictions or denials of a new offensive were based on “whether people are applying Western standards of readiness” to Putin’s military.

“Russia has undertaken one wave of mobilization and is quite capable of undertaking more,” Giles said.

“We would be more likely to see a better-organized, even if low-tech, offensive from Russia in the early stages of next year,” he added.

Western allies, led by the United States, have provided billions of dollars in lethal aid to help Ukraine replace its largely Cold War-era arsenal. But calls for yet more accurate and far-reaching systems have continued — culminating in the United States’ decision to send Patriot air defense systems, which Biden is set to announce Wednesday.

Requests for ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems), which would give Ukraine greater ability to strike targets within Russia and on the Crimean Peninsula, have been treated cautiously by U.S. officials over fears of wider escalation.

Some observers have predicted Ukraine could retake Crimea as soon as next summer — but others are expecting a much more drawn-out fight.

“I think we’ve seen the peak of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and also the peak of the Russian offensive actions,” Ramani said. “I think we’re looking at a slow-moving attritional war with heavy casualties on both sides.”

Leila Sackur, Stacey Klein and Zoë Richards contributed.

Check Also

South Korea’s president speaks on U.S. intelligence leak

IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser. …