Fears Putin will take key Ukrainian cities in ‘unexpected’ offensive

Russia: Rupert Jones on Putin’s next move

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Russia could target a number of key towns and cities in Ukraine during its anticipated spring offensive later this year, a military expert has warned, Major General Rupert Jones said a number of locations in Ukraine could be seen as huge prizes by Vladimir Putin and his Russian military.

Potential targets include the town of Bakhmut, an area located in the eastern Donbas region which has been at the centre of intense fighting in recent months.

The expert also says Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, could also be targeted. Last year, Ukraine took back large swathes of territory near the city during their counter-offensive.

Speaking to Times Radio, Major General Jones said: “You mention Bakhmut in the centre. That would seem a credible place for the Russians to go. Taking Bakhmut would be significant for Putin.

“He’s sweated over it for months and months and months, spilt considerable blood. Is it of great significance? Not really, but it is in terms of status.”

“You mention Kharkiv, there is Ukraine’s second city. It is only 25 miles from the Russian border so that feels a significant objective.

“Potentially, Putin could attack further south. There’s talk of attacking Zaporizhzhia. These are the sorts of names we are going to see being talked about over the coming weeks.”

However, Major General Jones explained that it won’t be clear which part of Ukraine Russia is looking to target until Putin’s forces launch their new offensive.

This is because Ukraine and Russia will engage in bluffing and counter-bluffing to try and throw their enemy off their scent.

He added: “We are going to see a lot of speculation over the coming weeks. I think we should all be really clear that it will not be what we are all expecting.

“This is a game of chess, both sides will claim bluff and counter-bluff. So it might well mean the Russians seek to probe, trying to find positions of weakness they can exploit with the Ukrainians.

“The Ukrainians will make public proclamations about where they think the attack might come. And that might well be where they think it might come from, but it might be that they are playing bluff and trying to keep the Russians guessing.

“The Ukrainians will be looking for where those critical buildups of Russian forces are.”

Last week, Ukraine’s defence minister warned that Russia is amassing 500,000 troops ahead of their spring offensive.

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Oleksii Reznikov: “Officially they announced 300,000 but when we see the troops at the borders, according to our assessments it is much more.”

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the UK as he urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other world leaders to provide Kyiv with jets.

However, the Ministry of Defence has said that there will be no immediate transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine.

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