Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to seize two-thirds of Ukraine's territory in early 2022, reports the German newspaper Bild, citing its sources among high-ranking military officials.
According to sources, Russia’s "plan maximum" for the war against Ukraine "lies in Putin’s drawer, and he has not yet decided whether it will be caried through." At the same time, according to Bild, the buildup of Russian troops, which started in April, indicates that the Kremlin seems to be inclined to go ahead with the attack on Ukraine.
One military official told Bild that, in January-February, when Putin gives an order, the Russian military will "simultaneously attack from northern Crimea, through the occupied territories in the east and from the north." However, other NATO insiders are confident that the attack could happen in 3 independent stages. Each of them could be the last if it causes the West to reassess the situation.
A U.S. intelligence official said that Putin intends to first seize southern Ukraine "to secure supplies to Crimea and to cut off Ukraine from the sea, and thus from supplies." Russia also plans to use landing ships moved from the Baltic Sea in the spring", "to transport tanks and troops from Crimea to the outskirts of Odesa."
Another high-ranking military official said that Russia is planning a landing operation "east of Odesa, between the villages of Fontanka and Kobleve." According to him, Russian troops are going to "advance northeast of the city, then turn left and advance into Transnistria," thus encircling Odesa.
At the same time, “airborne operations of special forces" will be carried out in the Kherson region along the Dnieper River. This will block bridges across the most important river of the country and thus block supply channels.
"At first Russia will start artillery fire from Crimea on Ukrainian positions. Then, the Ukrainian troops will be encircled and will not be able to recapture the bridges behind them, " the source said.
According to the source, the Russian military will move from the Donbas to the west, and then split with one part advancing to Zaporizhzhia and beyond, and the other moving towards Crimea. If Russia succeeds in its offensive, the entire south of Ukraine will be under its control, and Putin will have a corridor from Russia to NATO's border with Romania.
When the first phase of the offensive begins, Putin's air power and ballistic missiles will weaken Ukraine's military capabilities across the country. Russian tank units can cross the border in the Luhansk and Kharkiv regions and advance towards the Dnieper and Poltava. One of the officers explained that the Russian military will cut off electricity, gas and food supplies to the cities.
In his opinion, in a few weeks, the Russians can proclaim themselves rescuers of civilians, invade capitulated cities and "save" Ukrainians from starvation or death.
At the third stage, the Russian army will attack the Ukrainian capital from the north. However, the source is confident that an offensive against Kyiv can also occur at the beginning of the offensive, depending on the circumstances.
BILD noted that so far, the participation of Belarus in the war is doubtful, but if this happens, it will be part of Russia’s plan to encircle and besiege Kyiv from the north-east and north-west. Russian troops would then advance "to the Korosten-Uman line to cut off supplies from western Ukraine. Then one could expect the capitulation of Kyiv, and therefore of Ukraine under pressure from the West."
Sources believe that Ukraine will not be able to withstand a full-scale invasion by Russia. The Ukrainian armed forces, "if they are not completely destroyed," will withdraw to the west of the country.
According to another interlocutor of the publication, "American Javelin anti-tank missiles will not be enough for all Russian tanks, and Turkish Bayraktar drones will be smashed by Russian combat aircraft. The military is confident that modern Western anti-aircraft missiles, like Patriot, and anti-ship missiles of the Harpoon type will be needed to protect Ukraine.
NATO security officials added that Ukraine's allies are now reviewing arms supplies to Ukraine, although "this decision cannot come from NATO as a whole, but only from its members separately."
The Washington Post reports, citing intelligence data, that 175,000 soldiers will take part in Russia's massive military offensive against Ukraine.
Analysts of the Conflict Intelligence Team reported that a large group of Russian troops had been deployed near the border with Ukraine.
The U.S. Department of State said that Washington is preparing for "unforeseen circumstances" due to the buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian borders.
According to Bloomberg, in November, Russia began to actively deploy troops to the annexed Crimea.
According to western military analysts, Putin may bluff, but if this is not the case, then the Ukrainian army is facing a terrible test.