Ukraine warns Putin is plotting ‘maximum escalation’ of war

Russia: Nuclear weapons ‘not a deterrent’ claims Solovyov

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Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, said Moscow is “obsessed” with dates and would be focusing on February 24, the day the 70-year-old Russian leader began his so-called “special military operation”. The warning comes as his forces try desperately to secure more territory before Western battle tanks arrive in Ukraine.

Mr Zelensky said yesterday Russia is accelerating operations in eastern Ukraine.

Military analyst Yevhen Dikiy said forces are pushing from both the north and south to encircle Bakhmut, using superior troop numbers to try to cut it off.

Mr Zelensky said his country would fight to hold on to the city for as long as it could.

He urged the West to supply long-range weapons to help Kyiv push Russia out of the Donbas region.

Speaking at a news conference alongside top EU officials as he rekindled his country’s bid for membership, the Ukraine leader said: “We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress.”

Shortly after his rallying cry, Washington announced it is planning to send new bomb-tipped, GPS-guided rockets to Ukraine as part of a $2.2billion package of military aid.

The weapon combines an air force small-diameter bomb and an Army rocket already being operated by Ukraine’s forces.

But it will not be delivered for at least nine months, the time Boeing will need to manufacture the munitions.

In another boost for Kyiv, Germany said it would send dozens of Leopard 1 battle tanks. It comes 10 days after President Joe Biden said he was sending 31 M1 Abrams.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to send around 14 Challenger 2s.

The news came as defence chief Mr Danilov warned that Moscow is seeking to learn from its mistakes after failing in strategic goals of the past year. Russia was unable to seize Kyiv and lost Kharkiv and Kherson and 188,000 of its soldiers have either been killed or wounded.

Mr Danilov, 60, said: “A year ago all the troops were concentrated on the borders. But now we’re talking about a big mass of people all over the country training all the time.

“They have analysed all their mistakes and they are attempting to calculate things will be different.”

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