Ukraine prepares for new offensive as Russia and Belarus begin joint drills


DNIPROVS’KE, Ukraine – The smell of sawdust hangs in the air around. Anetwork of neatly dug trenches in a quiet and densely forested. Area on Ukraine’s border with Belarus.

Freshly cut planks reinforce 5-foot-high mud walls between channels crossing the forest floor. Every few meters, logs across the top form a sort of shelter, the temporary roof covered with branches and soil for camouflage.

Less than five minutes’ drive from the border. With Russia’s close ally, Ukraine is preparing for war in this quiet jungle. Originally built in April, Ukrainian forces continue to update and strengthen these trench. Like defenses amid reports of Russian troops and armor pouring into Belarus.

On Monday, Belarus and Russia began joint military exercises. Adding to fears that Moscow would use its ally to launch. Anew ground offensive, similar to the one it launched in February.

Air force exercises will take place until February 1. Using all military airfields in Belarus and a joint army exercise involving. A “mechanized brigade division”, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said.

Standing next to an empty trench, Senior Lieutenant Anton knows. He and his men must be on high alert — the next attack could strike anywhere along the front line stretching thousands of miles.

“In all our areas of responsibility we are building these forts. To covertly defend and counter-attack,” said the 32-year-old father of four and a former civilian border guard. “A possible attack from the Belarusian side could come Ukraine from anywhere. So we are preparing for all eventualities.”

The officer uses only his first name because he is on active duty, a reflection of increased security at the border. Another is that the soldiers who built the trenches were temporarily cleared from. The area before NBC News arrived for safety reasons.

Passing through the city of Chernihiv, brutal police demanded identification papers from NBC News.

Still, the Russian push is more likely to come. From previously occupied territory, Ukraine’s deputy. Head of military intelligence, Vadim Skibitsky, told NBC News.

“We are now focusing on the stockpiles and troop formations that Russia is keeping. In the temporarily occupied territories. We are talking about winter spring. Three main directions: Donbass, Kharkiv and Zaporizhia,” Skibitsky said on Thursday.

Across the Dnipro River from Belarus, not far from the trenches, Ukrainian forces are taking no chances.

A vast bridge between the two countries was blown into the icy waters below by Kiev’s forces. To block Russia’s advance shortly after the February offensive.

Expecting an easy victory, Moscow’s poorly prepared troopsvwere humiliated. By a ferocious Ukrainian counteroffensive. And 10 months later, Russian forces have struggled to hold and expand the territories they captured.

Anton pointed to the fortifications built by Russian and Belarusian soldiers on the other side. A few feet away. A soldier stood in a Ukrainian foxhole on the riverbank, staring across the water at Moscow’s closest ally.

Expectations have since grown that Russian President Vladimir Putin will soon order a renewed push to break the deadlock.

Russia said it captured the eastern town of Soledar on Friday, its only breakthrough since the summer. Although Ukrainian forces say they still hold the line.

The Russian advance came at a terrible human cost. With Ukrainian officials describing wave after wave of poorly equipped troops in their defenses.

Kyiv is now warning of another major mobilization of Russian men to replace those lost and make further holes in Ukrainian territory.

“According to our intelligence estimates, the Russian Federation will create an armed. Force of two million people,” Skibitsky said, without giving a timeframe.

On December 30, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Oleksiy Rezhnikov, warned that martial law would be imposed. In Ukraine early January and that the border would be tightened to stop the expulsion of Russian men.

It has not been implemented yet. I.

Experts such as Frank Ledwise, a lecturer. In military strategy at Britain’s University of Portsmouth. And a former military intelligence officer. Say predictions of tens of thousands more Russians “I have no doubt that Ukrainian military intelligence has pretty good sources and they won’t announce it unless they have some good reason to do so. So I think something is going to happen,” Ledwijs said.

However, such a move was unlikely to tip the balance of the war in Russia’s favor, he said.

Ledwicz and other military experts say Russia is rapidly running out of supplies of armored vehicles. And other equipment, and describes

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