According to Ukrainian intelligence information, Putin is said to have ordered his troops to take Luhansk and Donetsk by March. Before the EU summit, Zelenskyy hopes that negotiations will begin this year on Ukraine’s EU accession. Kyiv calls for longer-range missiles. That happened on the night of the Ukraine war.

All reports on the Ukraine war can be found in the Newsticker.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to have ordered his military to capture the two oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk by March 2023. Ukrainian intelligence official Andriy Chernyak told the Kyiv Post on Wednesday. The employee of the main military intelligence service also said that the Russian armed forces are moving other unspecified assault groups, units, weapons and military equipment to areas in eastern Ukraine, probably to the region of Luhansk Oblast.

“There is information that Putin gave the order to take Donetsk region by February 24, but that is impossible,” Victor Tregubov of the Ukrainian Armed Forces told the newspaper. “After taking Bakhmut, the Russian army would have to travel a considerable distance and would have problems with communication and supplies,” he said.

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, believes that the offensive in Donbass has long since begun. “It is clear that there will be some active measures in the spring,” he told the Kviv Post. “But already today we see such actions in the Luhansk and Donetsk directions. That means the offensive is underway.”

According to analysts at the US Institute for War Studies (ISW), Putin may again overestimate the capabilities of the Russian military. So far, the ISW sees no signs that the troops now have sufficient fighting power to take 11,300 square meters in Donetsk alone, in accordance with Putin’s order. In Luhansk, meanwhile, Russian authorities are said to have blocked Internet cellphone service to hide possible troop transfers to the area, according to the ISW.

The ISW had previously estimated that a major Russian offensive would likely peak during the April rainy season or earlier before having significant operational impact. That, in turn, could create favorable conditions for Ukrainian forces to exploit in their own counteroffensive in late spring or summer of 2023, after receiving western supplies of tanks.

Kyiv is hoping for more concrete accession prospects from an EU-Ukraine summit on Friday. “I believe that Ukraine deserves to start negotiations on EU membership already this year,” said Zelenskyy in his evening address on Thursday. Further integration into the European Union would give Ukrainians “energy and motivation to fight despite all obstacles and threats”.

Ukraine has had candidate country status since June. However, it usually takes many years to become a member. However, the 27 EU states have agreed that promises of reform must first be kept.

Another topic at Friday’s summit, which is being held under tight security, is additional European support in the war against Russia. Von der Leyen, who has been in Kyiv since Thursday, has already announced further financial, military and humanitarian aid. 150 million euros are to be made available for the reconstruction of the energy infrastructure destroyed by Russia. A new package of sanctions against Russia is to be decided by the first anniversary of the start of the war on February 24.

According to a report by the Ukrinform agency, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov once again called for longer-range missiles for his country. Ukraine is also ready to guarantee that no attacks on Russian territory will be carried out.

Ukraine has also requested specific funding from the European Union for the ongoing reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure. “This year the requirement is 17 billion US dollars (around 15.6 billion euros),” said Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal. Above all, the Russian funds frozen in the course of the sanctions against Moscow should be used for this.