Kyiv – Ukraine’s outgoing defense minister has said the country expects a new Russian offensive later this month.
At a press conference, Oleksiy Reznikov said that not all Western weaponry will arrive by then, but Ukraine has enough reserves to hold off Russian forces. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that soldiers are fighting fiercely in Bakhmut, Vuledar and Liman.
Mr Reznikov’s comments came hours before it was announced he was to be replaced as defense minister.
In his place will come the head of the military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov, said the Ukrainian politician from the party of Mr. Zelensky. The shake-up comes amid a series of corruption scandals that have hit the Defense Ministry.
Mr. Reznikov denied media reports that some defense officials were suspected of embezzling public funds to procure food for the army. Ukrainian lawmaker David Arahamia announced the reshuffle on Sunday, saying “war dictates personnel policies.” Mr. Reznikov, a prominent figure in Ukraine’s efforts to secure Western arms, will now become Minister of Strategic Industries. President Zelensky has already fired a number of senior officials as part of a broad anti-corruption crackdown across his government. At the previous press conference, Mr.
He said Russia is expected to prioritize taking over the entire eastern Donbas, as well as launching an offensive in southern Ukraine.
Mr Reznikov made similar comments on French television earlier this month. The defense minister also confirmed that troops will start training on German-made Leopard tanks from Monday. Mr. Reznikov said Ukraine had secured new long-range missiles with a range of 90 miles (150 kilometers), but they would not be used against Russian territory – only against Russian units in occupied areas of Ukraine. “I am sure we will win this war,” Reznikov said, but added that without the delivery of Western fighter jets, “it will cost us more lives.”
Despite the flow of Western arms into Ukraine, Russia has made gains around the Bakhmut area in recent days as the Russian army throws more troops into the fight.
The Russian paramilitary mercenary group Wagner did much of the fighting in the area.
Its head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said there were fierce battles for every street in some areas of the city, and Ukraine’s armed forces were “fighting to the last”. Russian forces have been trying to take control of Bakhmut for months – making it the longest battle since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago. Seizing the area is important to Russia as part of its goal to control the entire Donbass region.
It would also mean a reversal in Russia’s fortunes after it lost ground in Ukraine in recent months.