Last minute and live coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine on Wednesday, February 1

Ukraine’s senior defense official says Russia is preparing for ‘maximum escalation’ in war

Oleksiy Danilov gives an interview at his office in Kyiv, Ukraine on December 24, 2021. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia is preparing for “maximum escalation” of the war in Ukraine, as soon as possible, in the coming weeks, a senior Ukrainian national security official said.

“These will be decisive months in the war,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council, told Sky News on Tuesday.

“The important fights are yet to come and I know they will happen in two or three months this year,” he said.

“Russia is preparing for maximum expansion. He is pulling everything together, doing drills and exercises. When it comes to attacking from different directions, I can say that for now, we are not ruling out any scenario in the next two or three weeks.”

Ukrainian officials have for some time warned of a renewed Russian offensive and have requested more powerful weapons from Western allies to counter the threat.

Following Danilo’s comments, a Ukrainian military spokesman said on Wednesday that there were signs Russia was preparing for a new offensive in southern Ukraine.

“Not only on land, but also at sea and in the air,” Natalia Humenyuk, a press officer at the United Coordination Center of the Southern Ukrainian Defense and Security Forces, said on national television.

Ukrainian intelligence has noted changes in the Russian Navy’s operations in the Black Sea.

“It waxes and wanes quickly, and the missile carriers move back and forth,” he said.

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Meanwhile, the Belarusian Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that it will hold joint military exercises with Russia for another week.

“During the week, the military representatives of the two countries will practice joint planning for the deployment of troops based on previous experience of armed conflicts in recent years,” the ministry said in a statement.

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