“The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops. I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv,” Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi told The Economist.
Within the past two weeks, The Economist says, it was briefed regarding the critical few months ahead by Gen. Zaluzhnyi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi.
Particularly, Zaluzhnyi said that Ukraine’s goal now is to prepare for the war that may start in January-March “with fresh forces and reserves”: it “may start in the direction of Kyiv, in the direction of Belarus, I do not rule out the southern direction as well.”
For this, Ukraine must focus on accumulating resources (tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, ammunition, etc) “for the more protracted and heavier battles that may begin next year.”
Other notable moments from the Zaluzhnyi interview:
- According to Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s power situation is “on the edge”: without water, light, and heat, preparing reserves to keep fighting is impossible. This is why missile and air defense is a strategic task;
- Ukraine has enough mobilized soldiers, but needs more equipment;
- Russia has adapted to HIMARS and now goes to a distance that they can’t reach, while Ukraine lacks something more long-range;
- Ukraine’s air defense ratio is 0.76, and the Russians exploit this by launching “not 76 but 100 missiles” so that some get through and ruin a power station. So Ukraine needs to ramp up air defense;
- Ukraine lacks resources to conduct large offensive operations. Still, it is working on one right now, “although you don’t see it yet.” For Ukraine to regain territory that was occupied since 24 February, it needs 300 tanks, 600-700 IFVs, 500 Howitzers. “I get what I get, but it is less than what I need. It is not yet time to appeal to Ukrainian soldiers in the way that Mannerheim appealed to Finnish soldiers. We can and should take a lot more territory,” Zaluzhnyi said. (Editor’s note: these estimates are smaller than those given earlier by military expert Bielieskov).
- Russian mobilization has worked; they will go fight despite the problems because they are told to, as it was in the Chechen wars. “They may not be that well equipped, but they still present a problem for us. We estimate that they have a reserve of 1.2m-1.5m people… The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops. I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv.”
“If Ukraine sought to stop the war today, freezing the battle lines where they are, the Russians could prepare better for the next attack. Mr Putin’s generals have been pushing on with their programme of training and deploying newly mobilised troops and retooling industry to help the war effort—including, say Ukrainian commanders, by producing artillery shells. A freeze would repeat the mistake of the three years leading up to the invasion on February 24th 2022. In that time Mr Putin talked endlessly to the West’s leaders, who indulged him, while all the while readying his armies for invasion,” The Economist wrote.