Ukraine ‘husbanding’ NATO weapons as major counter-offensive looms

Russian forces flee after being overwhelmed by Ukraine

Ukraine has not been using weapons sent by NATO on the front line, which may suggest they are being saved for the counter-offensive against Russia, a military expert has said.

Colonel Brendan Kearney described Ukraine as “husbanding” the weapons, keeping them ready for the anticipated spring counter-offensive.

In an interview with Times Radio, the former US marine did note that Ukraine strives to keep the specificities of what is happening on the front line somewhat quiet.

But he said that to date, there has been “no evidence” to suggest that the weaponry sent by allies has been used.

More than 30 countries have given Ukraine lethal hardware since Russia invaded more than a year ago.

Assistance from Western allies has been crucial with some £60billion in military aid committed to Ukrainian forces between January last year and January of this year, according to the Kiel Institute.

The US has led Ukraine’s allies in sending aid, dedicating a staggering £40billion to the cause alone with Joe Biden pledging the equivalent of a further £413milllion earlier this year.

Colonel Kearney said: “There certainly has been a build-up in terms of the weapon systems that have been sent from the West to Ukraine and in many cases we’ve seen no evidence of these items being on the front lines which tells me that they’re husbanding them.

“They’re going to use them at a time or place of their choosing.”

He continued: “We’ve heard the training that’s been going on — I mean, the British have conducted training, the US military has conducted training both in their own respective countries but also in Poland and other locations.”

However, he explained that Ukraine has long sought to keep information to itself that it does not want the world to know.

Colonel Kearney said: “The Ukrainians have a well-developed policy of keeping Western reporters and their own… away from the front except at times or places of their choosing. They’re very good at that and I give them credit for that.”

The former US Marines chief of staff in Europe hinted that an attack could be imminent because the weather needed to improve, which it now has.

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He now believes an offensive is “pending”, but that it should come sooner rather than later, adding: “The Ukrainians really don’t have much of a choice. The momentum has been on their side and I think they need to attack.”

Russia has now adopted a more defensive approach with Avril Haines, America’s top intelligence official, telling the Senate last week that a lack of resources has forced Vladimir Putin to scale back his ambitions in Ukraine for the time being.

A spring counter-offensive has long been in the pipeline but when this will take place is not known. As one soldier, known as Carp, told the Times this week: “Nobody knows exactly when the order will come. We have to be prepared at every moment.”

There is a lot riding on the counter-offensive with it being feared that if the Ukrainians’ “D-day” does not succeed as much as anticipated, it could undermine the case for other countries to send aid.

Prime minister Denys Shmyhal appeared to hint at the weight this attack carries when he told Sky News earlier this week that it is “very important” that the assault “demonstrates success”.

Many also fear overegging the counter-offensive. Olenskii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, described the world’s expectation of the counter-offensive as “overestimated”.

He explained that while “most people are waiting for something huge”, this could lead to “emotional disappointment”.

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