Russian forces have had some recent battlefield successes around Bakhmout, an eastern city they have been trying to capture since the summer, reducing it in a state of ruins.
Vladimir Putin vowed on Thursday to have something to “respond” to Westerners who deliver arms to Ukraine, a threat that comes in full speculation on a new Russian military escalation.
Speaking during the ceremonies for the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory in Stalingrad, the Russian president drew a new parallel between Russia's offensive against its neighbor and the Second World War.
< p class="e-p">For Mr. Putin, the conflict in Ukraine is part of the legacy of the triumph of the USSR over Hitler. He accused Ukrainian officials of being neo-Nazis orchestrating the genocide of Russian-speaking populations.
On Thursday, he felt that history was repeating itself, with the supply of German tanks to Ukraine to fight Russia.
It's amazing, but German Leopard tanks are threatening us again, insisted Mr. Putin, who was speaking from Volgograd (ex-Stalingrad, south-west), before adding: We have something to answer and it does not happen. will not be limited to armored vehicles.
In the process, his spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, specified that Russia would use all its potential to respond to Western arms deliveries. Last fall, Mr. Putin made similar remarks, interpreted as an allusion to nuclear weapons.
When will appear new weapons supplied by the “Collective West”, Russia will make full use of its existing potential to respond, Peskov said.
Ukraine fears that Russia is planning a major offensive around February 24, to mark the first anniversary of its invasion. And on the ground, new bombings killed at least three people in Kramatorsk, in the east of the country. The story of Lise Villeneuve.
After long prevarication for fear of provoking an escalation of the conflict, the West finally recently agreed to send modern tanks to Ukraine, German-designed Leopards, American Abrams and British Challengers.
But kyiv has yet to get the high-precision missiles with a range of over 100 km that the army says it needs to hit Russian logistics lines.
Many observers believe that both kyiv and Moscow are planning new offensives for the end of winter and spring.
After a series of humiliating setbacks in the In the fall, the Kremlin mobilized hundreds of thousands of reservists and stepped up its ground attacks, especially in the east.
On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky followed in the footsteps of his Defense Minister, Oleksiï Reznikov, and declared that Russia was preparing a new major attack, as February 24, the date of the first anniversary of the outbreak of the Russian assault.
Russia is concentrating its forces, we all know that. She wants revenge not only on Ukraine, but also on free Europe, he said during a press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Its Defense Minister noted on Wednesday that Moscow was preparing very seriously to try something around February 24.
Russian forces have had some success in recent weeks in the field of battle around Bakhmout, an eastern city they have been trying to conquer since the summer, reducing it to ruins.
If we had electricity, everything would be easier, we could heat ourselves, cook, tells AFP one of its inhabitants, Natalia Shevchenko, 75 years old.
The worst thing is that there is no [telephone] network. I can't call my family, she continues.
Nevertheless, Natalia remains, even though near-constant bombardments force her to live underground in a cellar, like a mole.< /p>
In Kyiv, Ursula von der Leyen once again pledged Europe's unwavering support for Ukraine and said she was working on additional sanctions against Russia to February 24.
She did not give details of her intentions for this tenth sanctions package, but said Russia should pay for the destruction it has caused. Mr. Zelensky called on Europeans to move faster.
According to Ms von der Leyen, the punitive measures taken over the past year have already set back the Russian economy by a generation. She notes that capping the price of exported Russian oil at US$60 a barrel was costing Moscow 160 million euros (over C$230 million) per day.
On Friday, European and Ukrainian officials are also due to discuss Ukraine's EU accession process at a summit in kyiv, an arduous procedure that Kyiv wants to accelerate.
Every step towards greater integration of Ukraine into the EU inspires our people, Mr. Zelensky pointed out.
Earlier, the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, had taunted Ursula von der Leyen, accusing her of wanting to annihilate her country and comparing her to the Nazis.
According to him, the President of the European Commission wants a defeat of Russia such that it does not recover for decades.
In Washington, the White House has par elsewhere indicated that the United States was in favor of the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Olympics under a neutral banner, but opposed to the display of their flags. If athletes are invited to an international sporting event like the Olympics, it must be absolutely clear that they do not represent the Russian or Belarusian states, said executive spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre. The use of Russian and Belarusian flags, emblems or anthems should also be prohibited.
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