The head of Ukraine’s Military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, hinted broadly in recent interviews that an Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) offensive with a launch date in March is in the works.
Speaking to the U.S. television channel ABC on Jan. 4, Budanov said he expects fighting to be the "hottest" in March. "This is (when we will see more) liberation of territories… This will happen throughout Ukraine, from Crimea to the Donbas," he said. The offensives would lead to “the final defeat of Russia.”
In a Jan. 1 interview with the Ukrainian television channel ICTV, Budanov pointed to a worsening Russian ammunition shortage, saying: “The Russian military is in an ammunition crisis it cannot resolve… At the start of the war they were firing 60,000 shells and rockets a day, but by October they had reduced that to 20,000. By March they will be in a critical situation.”
The Russian army will have shot off practically its entire shell and artillery rocket reserve by the end of winter, and there is “no chance” domestic production or import from allies like Belarus or North Korea, even theoretically, could fill that gap.
Budanov said the AFU is for its part accumulating reserves of artillery shells and rockets so as to conduct an offensive of its own. The Ukrainian military has reduced its shell expenditures in the short term, he added, in order to build a reserve of ammunition for major operations in future.
In Ukraine’s east, the AFU will face renewed attacks against the city Bakhmut in coming months, with further heavy losses of poorly trained Russian troops at the hands of dug-in Ukrainian defenders, Budanov predicted. He said that during a recent visit to the front line he was shown horrific Russian casualties from past assaults.
"Soldiers showed me a section where dead bodies are piled up like something you would see in a movie… There are hundreds of dead bodies just rotting away in the open field, in places they are piled on top of other bodies like makeshift walls. When Russian troops attack on that field they use those bodies for cover, like a shield… But it's not working. There are fields of dead bodies there."
Russian attacks in the east will fail, Budanov said. He also felt that the real objective of renewed Russian assaults in the Donbas will not be so much to take ground from the AFU, but more to enable Russian state media to report that the Russian army holds the initiative and is still attacking, for propaganda purposes.
“Russia no longer poses a military threat to the world, it’s just fiction,” Budanov told ABC. “The only problem that remains is Russia's nuclear arsenal and an uncontrolled regime that will lead… the whole world to understand the need for denuclearization of Russia, or at least international oversight of its nuclear arsenal.”
Along with attacks in Donbas, Budanov told ICTV that in the coming months the Kremlin will continue missile attacks against Ukraine’s power grid, but with less frequency due to cruise missile shortages. In October the strikes were once a week, and now once every three weeks. Russia will exhaust its entire cruise missile reserve after two more attacks, he said.
Ukraine will expand its own long-range strikes into Russian-controlled territory, and that in the coming weeks and months the attacks will be “deeper and deeper,” Budanov told ABC.
He declined to claim responsibility for attacks on Russian airfields and bombers 600 to 700 kilometers inside Russia, including a spectacular Dec. 26 raid on Russia’s Engels military air base – according to Russian news reports by kamikaze drones – that damaged up to five Russian missile-carrying aircraft just a few hours before they were scheduled to take off and launch missiles at Ukrainian cities.
Nevertheless, he said, “I was glad to see it.”
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