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Ukraine war latest: Kyiv says new Russian offensive could come in May or June

by The Kyiv Independent news desk March 28, 2024 10:26 PM 7 min read
Ukrainian soldiers ride on an armored vehicle in Novostepanivka, Kharkiv region, on Sept. 19, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Yasuyoshi Chiba /AFP via Getty Images)
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Key developments on March 28:

  • Zelensky: New Russian offensive may come in May or June
  • Kyiv dismisses reports about Russia's preparations for Kharkiv offensive
  • Almost 1,800 Ukrainian children made orphans by Russia's war
  • Security measures to be increased in Kyiv following missile strikes, threats of Russian saboteurs
  • Germany delivers tank ammunition, shells, drones, armored vehicles to Ukraine

Ukraine needs more help from its allies to face an expected major Russian offensive, which may come at the end of May or in June, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with CBS News published on March 28.

As Kyiv finds itself in an increasingly perilous situation in the war, Ukrainian military officials warned that Moscow may be preparing for a new major attack, mustering a force of 100,000 troops.

Zelensky noted that the situation on the battlefield has been stabilized compared to earlier months.

"We have stabilized the situation. It is better than it used to be two or three months ago when we had a big deficit of artillery ammunition, different kinds of weapons," Zelensky said in an interview recorded in an undisclosed location in eastern Ukraine, close to the Russian border.

"We didn't see a big, huge counteroffensive from Russia... They didn't have success."

Russian forces made some progress on the eastern front in February, capturing the key front-line city of Avdiivka and several nearby villages. On March 21, Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said that the situation in the east had been stabilized.

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Kyiv dismisses reports about Russia's preparations for Kharkiv offensive

Ukraine's Center for Countering Disinformation dismissed reports on March 28 about Russia’s preparations to launch a new offensive against Kharkiv, saying that Moscow currently "does not have the resources" for such an operation.

The statement comes two days after Russian independent media outlet Meduza cited anonymous sources close to the Kremlin saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin was considering trying to capture Kharkiv and "gradually finishing" the war after that.

The sources said they didn't have information on whether such a decision had already been made.

Another source told Meduza that Putin was "ready to go to the end – even to Kyiv – and doesn’t care about the price." All interlocutors of the media outlet expressed confidence Putin planned to continue the war against Ukraine.

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"All their lies about readiness to surround the city (Kharkiv) are designed for internal and external audiences and are part of the ‘fear propaganda’ campaign," said Andrii Kovalenko, the head of the Center for Countering Disinformation, subordinate to Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

"Talks about the 350,000 soldiers they want to recruit for this task, threats by (Russian propagandist) Vladimir Solovyov — (they are) so far only talks. This is a psychological operation," he added.

"Now the enemy is only capable of shelling and terrorizing the city, and under this terror, it adapts narratives about an offensive that is impossible. But the enemy always frightens with offensives, using shelling."

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is located in the northeast of the country, just about 30 kilometers from the Russian border. Due to its proximity to the border with Russia, Kharkiv Oblast and the regional capital have faced near-daily attacks since the start of the full-scale invasion.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier in March that Kharkiv was not yet safe enough for residents to return to the city.

The latest mass air strike against Kharkiv killed a man and injured at least 19 other people, including four children.

Almost 1,800 Ukrainian children made orphans by Russia’s war

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has led to almost 1,800 Ukrainian children becoming orphans, the National Social Service of Ukraine said in a comment to the Kyiv Independent.

Russia's all-out war has taken a devastating toll on Ukraine’s children, with almost 600 children killed and over 1,200 injured across the country, according to the UN’s latest data.

Over 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have been reportedly killed since Feb. 24, 2022. The actual number of civilian casualties in Ukraine is likely to be significantly higher as it doesn’t fully account for the numbers in the Russian-occupied territories and front-line settlements.

Russia has also been conducting a campaign of mass deportations of Ukrainian children in violation of international law.

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At least 19,500 children have been confirmed as abducted by Russia since the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and less than 400 of them have returned home, according to the Children of War database.

Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine has also reportedly destroyed or damaged one in seven schools in Ukraine and forced 1.6 million schoolchildren out of education.

According to a study published in February, over 20% of Ukrainian children study remotely, as only schools equipped with bomb shelters are allowed to operate offline.

The United Nations Children's Agency UNICEF estimated in February 2023 that around 1.5 million Ukrainian children were at risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health issues, with potential long-term effects and implications.

Security measures to be increased in Kyiv following missile strikes, threats of Russian saboteurs

Security measures in Kyiv will be tightened in the aftermath of several recent Russian missile strikes on the city and increased threat of infiltration by Russian saboteurs, said Serhii Popko, the head of the Kyiv City Military Administration, in a message posted on Telegram on March 28.

The decision was made at an emergency meeting of the Kyiv Defense Council, and was largely influenced by Russia's usage of missiles that strike only minutes after being fired, Popko said.

Russia has employed its new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile in some of its recent attacks on Kyiv. In a strike on the capital on March 25, explosions were heard just seconds after the air raid siren began, giving Kyiv residents hardly any time to get to shelters.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) also said on March 27 that it had detained two Ukrainian men accused of helping Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) plan missile strikes on military installations and communications infrastructure, including the Kyiv TV tower.

It is unclear if their arrest is related to Popko's announcement.

The new security measures do not contain many specifics but mention that authorities would review the circumstances of holding public events, particularly those attended by large numbers of people.

Popko also said that social media would be monitored to look for "disinformation, provocations, and other information that could destabilize the situation in Kyiv."

Despite the warning, Popko said Kyivans should "remain calm" and "not panic."

"We are taking preventive measures to ensure that Kyiv and its residents are well protected."

Popko concluded by reminding residents of the capital to "follow the safety rules and do not ignore air-raid warnings. Take care of yourselves."

Germany delivers tank ammunition, shells, drones, armored vehicles to Ukraine

Berlin handed over new defense aid to Ukraine, containing armored vehicles, ammunition, and drones, among supplies, the German government said on March 28.

In its latest supply, Berlin provided Ukraine with five Warthog repair and recovery armored vehicles, nine Warthog command armored vehicles, one Dachs armored engineer vehicle, ammunition for Leopard tanks, 18,000 155 mm artillery shells from industry and military stocks, 24,000 rounds of 40 mm ammunition, and 2,056 anti-tank weapons RGW 90 Matador.

Germany additionally sent Ukraine 14 Vector and 30 RQ-35 Heidrun reconnaissance drones, anti-drone sensors and jammers, six Wisent mine-clearing tanks, one Bergepanzer armored recovery vehicle, six Zetros tankers, a Satcom surveillance system, 70 GMG grenade launchers, nine mine plows, ponchos, camouflage nets, and two emergency power generators.

Berlin also updated the list of future military supplies, adding Patriot missiles and 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced a new aid package for Ukraine worth 500 million euros (roughly $540 million) earlier in March, including 10,000 artillery shells from the military stocks, 100 armored vehicles for infantry, and 100 logistical vehicles.

Germany has become one of Ukraine's leading military donors, second only to the U.S. According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Germany has supplied Ukraine with 17.7 billion euros (around $19 billion) in military assistance as of January.

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