Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine at the beginning of next year with far greater force than anything seen in the conflict to date, according to military intelligence in Kyiv.
he Kremlin had sent 92,000 soldiers to its western border and could launch a multi-pronged offensive in January or February, said Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s intelligence chief.
The assault would include air strikes and amphibious assaults on the ports of Odessa and Mariupul.
Ukrainian intelligence released a map detailing its assessment of how the invasion would play out, saying it would be a much more traditional – and bloody – operation than Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014.
Analysts noted that elements of the map were speculative, including Kyiv’s prediction that Russian fighter jets would attack from within Belarus.
Moscow’s air force has conducted patrols inside the country in the past month but has no permanent military base there.
But Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at the US Centre for Naval Analyses, said the map was realistic.
“I think this is a sobering and fairly accurate picture of what is being considered,” he wrote on social media. “The Russian military can do this. This is a worst-case iteration of several possible contingencies.”
Mr Budanov said Russia’s priority was to increase internal pressure on Ukraine’s government with disinformation campaigns, but it would resort to a military incursion if the tactics failed.
“They want to make the situation inside the country more dangerous and hard, and make a situation where we have to change the government,” he said. “If they can’t do that, then troops will do their job.”
The government of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, has angered Russia by censoring media channels owned by Kremlin-linked moguls, and moving to oust them from positions of power within the country.
On a trip to Washington last week, Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, warned that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was “playing chess” with the West and was still considering whether to launch a full invasion.
Western governments have voiced concern about the build-up of Russian troops on the border while admitting to uncertainty over whether Mr Putin is planning an invasion or engaging in sabre rattling to deter Kyiv from intensifying its co-operation with Nato.
“We’re not sure exactly what Mr Putin is up to,” Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said last week.
Britain signed an arms deal with Kiev this month for 10 naval vessels and new missile systems to counter the threat from Moscow. Boris Johnson has warned that it would be a “tragic, tragic mistake for the Kremlin to think there was anything to be gained by military adventurism” in Ukraine.
Mr Budanov said that the US could deter a Russian invasion by increasing its military support for Kyiv.
“It’s not enough for us right now,” he said of existing aid arrangements. “We need more. No countries except Ukraine have open war with Russia. And we have for seven years.
“That’s why we’re sure the US should give us everything we didn’t get before. And right now. It’s the right time for this. Because after, it could be very late.”
Earlier this year, a similar Russian build-up led to fears that Mr Putin was preparing for an invasion but Moscow pulled back its troops. Russia says it is responding to increased Nato activity near its borders.
Telegraph Media Group Limited