The top commander of the Ukrainian armed forces has admitted that the situation along the eastern front with Russia has “significantly worsened” amid a renewed push from Moscow’s forces.

Ukrainian commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrskyi — who took over the top post in February following the ousting of Valerii Zaluzhnyi after calling the war a “stalemate” — wrote on Telegram on Saturday that his forces are struggling to cope with escalating assaults being waged by Russia, which he claimed have intensified amid improving weather conditions and the recent “election” in Russia which cemented Vladimir Putin’s hold on power for at least another six years.

“The situation on the Eastern Front has significantly worsened in recent days. This is primarily due to the significant intensification of the enemy’s offensive actions after the presidential elections in the Russian Federation,” Syrskyi wrote during his visit to the Donetsk region.

The commander-in-chief said that Russian forces, with the use of “dozens of tanks” and other armoured military vehicles, are actively trying to “breakthrough” Ukrainian defences in Bakhmut, Lyman Raion, and Pokrovsk in the Donetsk Oblast, which Moscow announced the annexation of in 2022 following the invasion of Ukraine, but still does not fully control.

Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, top military commander in charge of the defense of the Ukrainian capital, walks in a trench at a position north of the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Syrskyi said the Russian assault has been “facilitated by warm, dry weather, which has made most of the open areas of the terrain accessible to tanks.”

After a largely successful effort to fend off Ukraine’s much-hyped “counteroffensive” last year, there are growing concerns in Kyiv and in Washington that Moscow is planning a major offensive this year to fully capture the entire contested Donetsk region and potentially this historically and strategically significant Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and the former capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

In preparation for difficult fighting against the better-armed and larger force of Russia, Kyiv has approved a controversial expansion of military conscription to bolster its ranks in the coming months.

However, Ukraine continues to plead for more weapons and money from the West, notably from the United States where House Republicans sceptical of sending more American taxpayer dollars into the conflict have been blocking Democrat President Joe Biden’s demands for another $64 billion in aid, in addition to the $113 billion already committed to the war effort.

General Syrskyi said that “high-tech weapons” supplied by the West were the “only” way for Ukraine to “defeat the larger enemy and create conditions for intercepting the strategic initiative.”

Yet, even if Ukraine were to receive more weapons from the West, its top general admitted that the country still faces significant issues, particularly surrounding the training of new recruits.

“The second serious problem is to improve the quality of training of military personnel, primarily infantry units, so that they can make maximum use of all the capabilities of military equipment and Western weapons,” Syrskyi said.

Earlier this week, President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that his government also has a plan for another counteroffensive, but said that it would be dependent upon weapons being supplied by the United States and its European allies.

It is unclear if Zelesnksy has already shared his plans with Washington. In February, the Ukrainian leader said that last year’s counteroffensive had failed, in part, due to the strategy being leaked to the Kremlin before the assault. Zelensky said that he would, therefore, draw up several decoy plans to disguise the tactics of the next assault from Moscow.

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