Ukraine’s military said on Saturday that Russian troops were massing in the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova and mobilizing for an offensive that could open another front in the war.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said it believes troops stationed in the self-proclaimed Russian-occupied republic, which borders southwestern Ukraine and near the third largest city of Odesa, are preparing to conduct “operations”. provocations” along the border.
“We have noted the redeployment of Russian troops and divisions of the Transnistrian-Moldova republic to demonstrate readiness for an offensive and possibly military action against Ukraine,” the army said. The team said in a regular update on their activities published early Saturday. . The claims of Ukraine and Russia about military actions cannot be independently verified.
The remarks come at the end of a week in which Russia withdrew its forces from around the capital Kyiv after failing to breach Ukraine’s defenses. Ukrainian officials say Russia is refocusing its offensive on the Donbas region, where it supported a separatist uprising in two breakaway “republics” in 2014, the second city of Kharkiv and its regions. other regions in the east of the country.
“In the east of our country, the situation is becoming very difficult,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech published Friday night. “They are preparing for new, powerful attacks. We are preparing for an even more aggressive defence.”
This week, Russia confirmed that it was reducing military activity near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv to focus its efforts on taking control of Donbas.
On Friday, officials in the Russian city of Belgorod, near the border, blamed Ukraine for a explode at the fuel depot caused a fire. Kyiv neither confirmed nor denied the attack on Russian territory.
British military intelligence said the attack would “add short-term strain to Russia’s already strained logistics chain”, and that supplies to forces surrounding Kharkiv could also be affected.
Amid military achievements in recent days, Ukraine has adopted a tougher stance towards Russia following inconclusive peace talks held in Turkey, where Moscow pressed Kyiv territorial concessions and a commitment to neutrality.
Zelensky said in a Fox News Interview that Ukraine will not give up any of its territory to Russia because its people will “not accept any outcome” other than victory.
“We do not trade in our territory,” the Ukrainian president said through an interpreter. “The issue of territorial integrity and sovereignty is undisputed.”
Zelensky also raised the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO, seemingly offering the prospect of membership, which would go against Moscow’s central condition for a peace deal.
“It’s hard for us to talk about Nato because Nato doesn’t want to acknowledge us,” Zelensky said. “I think it was a mistake because if we join Nato we will make Nato much stronger,” he said, adding that Ukraine “is not a weak country.”
“We are not proposing to make us stronger at the expense of Nato. . . We are not additions, we are the locomotives, says Zelensky. “I think we are one of the important components of the European continent.”
The statements contradict what Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s negotiator, said after the talks. Medinsky claims that Ukraine has agreed to Russia’s main request not to join NATO and refuse to build military bases.
Zelensky, who has repeatedly criticized Nato for doing too little to help Ukraine, said he invited the US to join a future peace deal during a recent conversation with President Joe Biden. Washington, he said, is “reviewing the proposal”.