KYIV — Ukrainian intelligence officials are warning that the Kremlin plans a new mobilization wave for up to 500,000 men to fight in Ukraine starting in mid-January.
The new conscription drive, which would be larger than last autumn’s Russian draft of 300,000, would include a push in big cities, including some strategic industrial centers in Russia, Andriy Cherniak, an official with the Main Military Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, told POLITICO on Saturday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in December said a suggested new conscription wave would be pointless as currently only 150,000 previously mobilized soldiers have been deployed in the invasion of Ukraine. The rest are still training or serving in the Russian rear.
Russia announced the end of the earlier “partial” mobilization of 300,000 men on October 31. But Cherniak claimed that Moscow has continued secret conscription all along.
Now, Ukrainian military intelligence expects a new major wave of official mobilization might begin after January 15.
“This time the Kremlin will mobilize residents of big cities, including the strategic industries centers all over Russia,” Cherniak said. “This will have a very negative impact on the already suffering Russian economy.”
Moscow plans to use the 500,000 extra conscripts in a possible new massive offensive against Ukraine, the Guardian reported, citing Vadym Skibitsky, deputy chief of Ukrainian military intelligence.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that Russia has seen more than 100,000 soldiers killed in action in Ukraine. The latest blow that Moscow’s army has endured was in Makiivka, a town in the occupied part of Donetsk Oblast, where hundreds of newly conscripted Russian soldiers were killed or wounded in a high-precision strike by Ukrainian forces on January 1. Although the number of casualties cannot be verified independently, the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged the deaths of 89 soldiers, which makes it the biggest one-time military loss recognized by Moscow in the Ukraine war.
Ukrainian Armed Forces Chief Commander Valery Zaluzhnyy, in a December interview with the Economist, said Russia will conduct a new attempt at a massive offensive against Ukraine in February-March 2023. It might not start in Donbas, but in the direction of Kyiv through Belarus.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Ukraine keeps watching Russian steps in all directions.
“Russia will not be able to conceal in silence its preparations for a new wave of aggression against Ukraine and the whole of Europe. The world will know in all details — how and when the aggressor is preparing a new escalation in this war,” Zelenskyy said in an evening video statement on January 5.
“And every new mobilization step of Russia will be known to the world even before Russia makes it,” Zelenskyy said. “We will ensure this.”