Ukraine defense ministry warns of ‘signs’ Russia is increasing troop size in Donbas

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A Ukrainian military official warned Saturday that Russia is continuing to bolster its forces in the eastern Donbas region and is intensifying its offensive measures. 

“As of today, we see signs that Russia has been increasing its troops in eastern areas of operations. They are increasing the numbers of their units, and they want to take as much Ukrainian territory as possible,” Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense spokesman Col. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told reporters. “As of now, their main goal is to get administrative boundaries of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts as well as Kherson oblast.”

Ukrainian soldiers rest at their position near Lyman, eastern Ukraine, April 28, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Ukrainian soldiers rest at their position near Lyman, eastern Ukraine, April 28, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. 
(Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images)

NATO PREPARING FOR MASSIVE MILITARY EXERCISES AS RUSSIA CONTINUES INVASION OF UKRAINE

Senior defense officials said this week that the U.S. assesses Russia’s progression as slow and behind schedule.

The Donbas region is roughly the size of West Virginia, and Russia has been ramping up a second offensive there for nearly a month.

The Kremlin redirected the majority of its efforts into eastern Ukraine after it failed to take Kyiv, though Moscow has also stated its intent to take southern regions along the Black Sea.

“Russian troops have been gradually increasing the intensity of their offensive action in eastern Ukraine,” Motuzyanyk said. “In addition, there have been signs of the aggressor preparing for even higher intensification of combat activities.”

The colonel said Russian forces are building out their hospital capabilities both in Ukraine and Russia in preparation for an even more intensive fight ahead. 

Motuzyanyk said that additional refrigeration facilities have also been established to preserve fallen Russian soldiers. 

Russian military vehicles move on Dvortsovaya Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Saint Petersburg April 28, 2022. Russia will celebrate the 77th anniversary of the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany May 9. 

Russian military vehicles move on Dvortsovaya Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Saint Petersburg April 28, 2022. Russia will celebrate the 77th anniversary of the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany May 9. 
(Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images)

UKRAINE SAYS RUSSIA LOOKS TO ‘REPLENISH’ TROOPS BY CONSCRIPTING UKRAINIANS

A senior U.S. defense official could not confirm the number of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine but said the Pentagon assesses there are 92 operation battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in the country as a whole. 

“We believe they have suffered attrition – they have suffered losses,” the official said. “Not all these BTGs are at 100% capability.”

Ukrainian and U.S. officials have noted that Russia is heavily relying on artillery and airstrikes as opposed to ground forces, the majority of which have been targeting Mariupol and areas housing units from Ukraine’s Joint Force Operation.

A Javelin missile fired by soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team heads toward a target during a live-fire training exercise April 28, 2022, at Fort Carson, Colo. 

A Javelin missile fired by soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team heads toward a target during a live-fire training exercise April 28, 2022, at Fort Carson, Colo. 
(Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

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Mariupol has been among the hardest hit in Russia’s war in Ukraine, but defense officials said Friday that Russia is largely relying on dummy bombs as opposed to precision-guided missiles, which could speak to Moscow’s inability to properly resupply its forces. 

Over 1,950 missiles have been fired at Ukrainian targets in the 65 days of the war. 

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