Estonian colonel: Russia moving to Plan C in Ukraine
Russia is preparing "Plan C" in Ukraine and is taking steps to launch a new direction of attack in the near future, the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces Intelligence Center said on Friday.
Colonel Margo Grosberg told a press conference that Russia has made no progress in Eastern Ukraine over the last 24 hours.
He said Russia is now preparing a "Plan C" which will be launched in the near future.
This week Russian units have relocated and withdrawn from the north of Ukraine. Troops have moved through Belarus and into Russian territory in the Valuiki and Belgorod regions, Grosberg said.
"A large-scale offensive is likely to be launched, first with a view to besieging the joint force of Ukrainian units that has been on the borders of the so-called People's Republics since 2014," he said.
The colonel said Russia will continue to attack the key city of Sloviansk from Izjum in the southeast.
He said units continue to be withdrawn from Kyiv and the surrounding region, but it does not mean they will be sent eastwards.
Grosberg said the southern city of Mariupol has not been captured despite the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk so-called People's Republics and Russia announcing it. He said Ukrainians are suffering heavy losses but the Azov battalion remains inside the city.
"Obtaining Mariupol for future operations is critical for the Russian Federation's armed forces. It would significantly shorten logistical routes," Grosberg said, explaining the importance of the port city, which been under attack for more than a month.
He said attacks on Ukrainian units in the direction of Crimea will continue to keep a line to the Dnieper River.
The Defense Forces Intelligence Center believes the next phase of the Russian attack could start next week.
"They will probably need to break for a little longer to regroup units, especially those from Belarus and northern Ukraine. It will take time to move and re-supply them. Will they do that or go directly to the front to maintain the pace of the operation, it is difficult to assess," said Grosberg.
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Editor: Helen Wright