Ukraine's military says there are clear signs that Russian forces are getting ready for a major push in the east, where a stalemate continues despite months-long heavy fighting and intensive daily shelling by Moscow's troops.
The shelling killed at least three people and wounded 20 others in Kramatorsk late on February 1. The head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said a Russian rocket struck a residential building in Kramatorsk.
"The enemy is actively conducting reconnaissance, preparing for an offensive in certain directions," Ukraine's General Staff said in its daily report early on February 2.
"Despite heavy losses, it continues to attempt offensive actions in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Novopavlivka areas [of Donetsk region]," the General Staff said.
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The focal point of the monthslong battle in Donetsk has been in and around Bakhmut, where Russian shelling killed at least five civilians and wounded 10 on January 31, Ukraine’s presidential office said.
Russian forces launched six missile strikes on Ukrainian targets during the past 24 hours, four of which hit the civilian infrastructure in Slovyansk, Kramatorsk, and Druzhkivka in Donetsk, as well as four air strikes and 73 salvoes from multiple rocket launchers, the military said.
The situation on the front line has become more difficult, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on February 1.
"A definite increase has been noted in the offensive operations of the occupiers on the front in the east of our country. The situation has become tougher," Zelenskiy said in his evening video address.
Zelenskiy said the Russians were trying to make gains that they could show on the first anniversary of the war on February 24.
The secretary of Ukraine's Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov, also warned that Russia was planning a major attack from multiple directions that could occur around the anniversary of the start of Russia's invasion.
"Russia is preparing for maximum escalation," Danilov told British TV station Sky News on January 31.
"It is gathering everything possible, doing drills and training."
Danilov said the next two or three months will be "the defining months in the war."
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov referred to a transfer of troops, saying Moscow could "try something" to mark the anniversary of the invasion.
Reznikov, speaking to French broadcaster BFM, said Russian troops are massing at the border and according to the Ukrainian military's assessment their number is more than the 300,000 called up in a mobilization in September.
Ukraine last week won pledges from the United States and Germany to send tanks to help it defend itself and has continued actively requesting more modern equipment, including fighter jets and long-range artillery, from its Western allies.
The United States has ruled out any deliveries of F-16 fighter jets for now, but other partners have indicated they are more open to the idea.
The Kremlin has warned that Western military shipments could cause an escalation in the conflict.
Russia also warned Israel against supplying weapons to Ukraine after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was considering doing so, including the so-called Iron Dome antimissile defense system.
Netanyahu also said he is ready to act as a mediator in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine if both sides and the United States agreed.
Israel, which has more than 1 million citizens from the former Soviet Union, has so far sought to maintain neutrality toward the conflict.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP