Ukraine claims Russia is preparing huge ground attack in new year

Ukraine: Kherson regional administration hit by Russian missile

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Explosions and blackouts were reported as the capital Kyiv was struck along with the cities of Odesa, Vinnytsia, Kryvyi Rih, Kherson and Kharkiv. At least three people were killed but others were feared dead.

Officials said 37 out of 40 missiles fired at Kyiv were shot down, but water supplies were still affected and metro services suspended.

Nine power stations were hit across Ukraine in Putin’s effort to freeze the nation into submission.

The morning raid came as sirens sounded in several cities. Terrified civilians hunkered down in underground air-raid shelters.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko later confirmed explosions had occurred in at least two areas of the capital.

In Kharkiv, mayor Ihor Terekhov said there had been “colossal… destruction”. And he warned the public: “Explosions in Kharkiv for the second day in a row. An infrastructure facility was previously under missile attack. There may be electrical problems… Be careful and stay in cover.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said evidence was mounting that Putin, who has seen his forces suffer a series of battlefield losses, is now planning a broad new offensive.

He said it could come in February when half of the 300,000 troops conscripted by Russia in October would complete their training. Mr Reznikov said: “The second part of the mobilisation, 150,000 approximately…do a minimum of three months to prepare. It means they are trying to start the next wave of the offensive probably in February, like last year. That’s their plan.

“The Kremlin is trying to find new solutions to get the victory.”

He added despite unrest in Russia over losses in the war, he expects Putin to mobilise more citizens.

President Volodymyr Zelensksy and his generals believe the new offensive could come in January, in the thick of winter. Armed forces chief General Valery Zaluzhny warned: “The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops. I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv.”

And he said Ukraine’s “very important strategic task…is to
create reserves and prepare for the war, which may take place in February, at best in March, and at worst at the end of January”.

Gen Zaluzhny added: “It may start not in Donbas, but in the direction of Kyiv, in the direction of Belarus, I do not rule out the southern direction as well.”

Some military analysts expect a winter deadlock, especially in the Donetsk region, where Russia wants to capture the city of Bakhmut. A Christmas truce has been ruled out.

European Union leaders have agreed to provide £15.7billion in finance to Ukraine next year and also issued Moscow with a ninth package of sanctions.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the US military announced it will expand training in Germany of Ukrainian military personnel. From January, 500 troops a month will be taught new skills, building on more than 15,000 Ukrainians trained by the US and its allies since April.

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