The number of dead as a result of the apartment strike in Russia has reached 40; Kyiv and Moscow signal that a long bloody fight is ahead

Hopes for a ceasefire between Moscow and Kiev faded on Monday as Ukrainian leaders vowed revenge for a Russian airstrike on a residential building in the Dnieper over the weekend that killed at least 40 civilians while rescuers searched for dozens more. who were still afraid of being trapped under the rubble. .

A 24-hour rescue operation in a southeastern Ukrainian city has dragged on for a third day amid signs that the Kremlin intends to only step up its brutal attacks on civilian targets and launch a potentially major new offensive against Ukrainian forces.

Western analysts believe Moscow is now laying the groundwork for a “protracted war” in which fighting could last months or possibly longer, with Russian military commanders apparently believing they have a window in eastern Ukraine to reverse the gains. Kiev is on the counteroffensive at the end of last year. year

The prospect of a bloody, protracted war between Russia and Ukraine is growing as the West grapples with what — and how much — military aid to provide to Ukrainian forces while limiting the risk of a dangerous escalation with Moscow.

In the past few weeks, the US and UK have increased their aid packages.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, made headlines on Sunday when he said the US had also expanded combat training for Ukrainian soldiers in Germany with the aim of returning a battalion of about 500 Ukrainian troops to the battlefield to fight the Russians in the next five to eight weeks.


SEE ALSO: ‘Burn in hell, Russian killers’: Ukraine mourns after yet more deadly apartment building attack


But other Western powers seem more cautious.

In Germany, for example, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned on Monday amid a series of public relations blunders and after bearing the brunt of criticism for Germany’s reluctance to send heavy weapons to Ukraine.

After Ms. Lambrecht’s resignation, some German analysts say Chancellor Olaf Scholz has a chance to redefine Berlin’s role as a leader in providing lethal aid to the Ukrainian military.

Ukrainian leaders say help may not come soon.

Bloody fighting continued Monday in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, as Russian forces reportedly stepped up shelling of the city of Kherson, where local authorities said Russian shells hit a hospital and a children’s disability center.

These attacks followed Saturday’s airstrike on the Dnipro residential complex, which was home to about 1,700 civilians.

Russian forces have struck civilian targets in Ukraine throughout the nearly 11-month war, but the apartment attack hit Ukraine hard.

In an address on Monday, President Vladimir Zelensky condemned the “evil” attacks on civilians and called on Russian citizens to rise up against their own military.

“I want to say to all those in Russia – and from Russia – who even now could not utter even a few words of condemnation of this terror, although they see and know everything very well,” said Mr. Zelensky.

“Your cowardly silence, your attempt to wait out what is happening, will end one day with the same terrorists coming after you,” he said. “Evil is very sensitive to cowardice. Evil always remembers those who fear it or try to bargain with it. And if he comes for you, there will be no one to protect you.”

The President of Ukraine also promised that “everyone will be brought to justice for terrorist attacks” against the Ukrainian people.

The harsh words came just weeks after signs emerged that Moscow and Kyiv were taking small steps toward possible peace talks.

Ukraine has publicly insisted that any peace talks be based on Russia returning all captured Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, which Moscow forcibly annexed in 2014.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a temporary ceasefire earlier this month to mark Orthodox Christmas, although Mr Zelensky and his Western allies dismissed the proposal as a cynical ploy to buy time for Russia to retool its troops.

Although the two sides are miles apart on terms, an apparent openness to at least considering the concept of talks has raised glimmers of hope that the war could end in 2023.

Tightening

Now experts say that the signs point in the other direction.

In a detailed analysis on Sunday, the Washington Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that Russia appears to be preparing for a prolonged escalation in Ukraine.

“The Kremlin is likely preparing to take decisive strategic action in the next six months aimed at regaining the initiative and ending Ukraine’s current series of operational successes,” the think tank notes. “While Putin has not changed his war aims, there is evidence that he is changing fundamental aspects of Russia’s approach to war, undertaking several new lines of effort.”

Notably, Moscow is shifting its force-building operations to include the mobilization of reserve forces and possibly even large-scale conscription, according to ISW.

Russian military leaders also appear to be strategically keeping some mobilized personnel in reserve for future campaigns rather than immediately deploying troops to the front lines, the institute notes.

It adds that Mr. Putin is also putting public pressure on Russia’s defense industrial base to ramp up production of weapons, drones, ammunition and other materials.

Analysts also say that the recent appointment of Russian General Valery Gerasimov as Mr. Putin’s top adviser in Ukraine signals that the Kremlin wants more centralized control over the military effort, rather than relying on theater commanders who have so far failed to achieve the desired results.

Kremlin officials have also warned the United States and Great Britain about their recent decisions to increase arms shipments to Ukraine.

Britain announced last weekend that it would supply Ukraine with 14 Challenger 2 tanks. This announcement came after the US recently sent Patriot anti-missile defense systems and Bradley fighting vehicles to Kyiv.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the British vehicles would be destroyed.

“They use [Ukraine] as a tool to achieve its anti-Russian goals… These tanks are burning and will burn like all the others,” Mr. Piaskov said, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the West may soon get a deeper look into the operations of Russia’s Wagner Group, a shadowy mercenary army controlled by business tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin that is playing an increasingly prominent role in the Ukrainian campaign.

Troops have claimed responsibility for the recent seizure of the town of Saledar, although Ukraine insists its forces are still fighting for control of the town.

According to media reports, Andrey Medvedev, who calls himself the former commander of the “Wagner” PMC, recently fled Russia and is seeking asylum in Norway. He claims to have witnessed several extrajudicial killings by Wagner’s fighters and is believed to be the first Wagner commander to flee to Europe, the Moscow Times reported on Monday.

Mr. Medvedev reportedly dodged guns and Russian sniffer dogs during his recent trek to the Russian-Norwegian border.

• This article is based in part on reports from the Telegraph Service.

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