VLADIMIR Putin is feared to be preparing for a new onslaught on Ukraine with up to 500,000 soldiers.
Russia is believed to be plotting an attack across two new fronts – pushing into eastern and southern Ukraine.
Kyiv believe that Vlad’s attack may happen on around February 24 – the one year anniversary of the invasion.
Mad Vlad is desperate to achieve something after a bruising first year which has seen his forces thrown back.
Ukraine however fear the next few weeks will crucial for the conflict as they continue to call for weapons from the West.
Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov believes Putin is gathering up to 500,00 soldiers from the new offensive.
He warned the Russians can carry out an offensive on two fronts, pushing into the south and into the east in the Donbas.
Kyiv is preparing for the assault – but have admitted things will be difficult and warned they “cannot lose the initiative”.
Vlad’s initial assault last February saw his forces storm towards Kyiv before they were thrown by back the Ukrainians.
Ukraine then went on the counteroffensive, liberating huge swathes of the country from the disorganised Russians.
The conflict then slowed down over the winter.
And in recent weeks it has been reported the Russians were beginning to make gains.
Putin likely will be seeking some sort of major triumph or new operation to mark the anniversary – with his future now tied to the success or failure of the war in Ukraine.
“We can’t lose the initiative… We think that, given that [the Russians] live by symbols, they can try something around February 24,” said Reznikov.
He spoke of around “500,000” soldiers being mobilised by Putin.
The minister explained: “They officially declared about 300,000, but when we see their troops at the borders, according to our estimates, it is much more.
“[They] can carry out an offensive on two fronts: it can be Donbas, and it can be the south.”
These will be defining months in the warOleksiy Danilov
He added: “We tell our partners that we should be prepared as soon as possible.
“That is why we need weapons to deter the enemy, because initiative decides everything in war.”
It comes after this week Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg warned the Russians were preparing for a major new attack.
He estimated around 200,000 men – and previous reports from Russian media has suggested the attack could involved up to 700,000 soldiers.
The Institute for the Study of War offered an update – saying that they believe Putin will not stage a previously speculated assault on Western Ukraine from Belarus.
But they suggested Vlad may be preparing for smaller raids on northern Ukraine in a bid to spread their defenses thin ahead the new offensive.
The think tank previously claimed an “imminent” Russian offensive on the war-torn nation is “the most likely course of action”.
4Ukrainian soldiers take firing positions while training in the south on February 1Credit: AFP4Ukrainian servicemen rest at their positions near a front lineCredit: Reuters4Ukrainian servicemen dig a trench near BakhmutCredit: AFP”These will be defining months in the war,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told Sky News.
“I’m conscious the main fights are yet to come and they will happen this year, within two to three months.”
“Russia is preparing for maximum escalation. It is gathering everything possible, doing drills and training.
“When it comes to an offensive from different directions, as of now, I can say that we are not excluding any scenario in the next two to three weeks.”
Ukrainian official Natalia Humeniuk also noted they are preparing for a new assault from the South.
“Not just on land, but on the sea and in air as well,” she said.
Kremlin forces have reportedly been expelling Ukrainian civilians from their homes in eastern regions as they gather their military might.
GUR representative Andrii Yusov told Ukrainian TV that the country was on the eve of a “very active phase of the war”.
He added: “Both February and March will be intensive.
“The skill and motivation of Ukrainian soldiers, plus their equipment and weapons, both domestic and [those sent as] help from international partners, are what will ultimately turn the tide of these offensive actions.”
Meanwhile, a senior Ukrainian soldier has urged Russian forces to abandon their posts before they are killed in Mad Vlad’s war of aggression.
Lieutenant General Yurii Sodol, head of Ukraine’s marines, said: “I will separately address the Russian military: before it’s too late, run, return to your “Maruskas” [Russian women] or surrender, otherwise it’s the fate of a fertiliser on someone else’s land; a black bag or disability awaits you, this is your “happy” future.
“Unlike you, we know what we are fighting for, we are united, we are one.
“We will do everything so that the blue-yellow flag flies again in all cities of Donbas and Crimea.”
Lieutenant General Sodol also predicted that thousands of Russian troops were set to invade in the coming months.
Moscow’s response was to accuse NATO of mobilising all its military infrastructure against Russia, even including satellites.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the move created “very peculiar, hostile conditions” for Russia and that his government has taken notice.
However, the country’s troops seem to be floundering on the battlefield, as a leaked phone call between front-line forces revealed.
One soldier called the campaign a “meat grinder” and that basic supplies like water were heavily rationed.
Ukraine have detailed the “war chest” of new weaponry that they want the West to provide to repel the attack, but the US stopped short of sending F-16 fighter jets.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has told reporters that it would “not be the right approach” to send jets but said no “solid decision” had been made.
Likewise, Moscow mouthpiece Peskov warned that long-range rockets which are believed to be included in an upcoming support package for Ukraine from the US would “escalate” the conflict.
4Russian forces are expected to launch attacks in southern, eastern and northern UkraineCredit: Alamy
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk