Ukraine’s military intelligence has claimed that Russia is set to order the mobilization of as many as 500,000 conscripts in January in addition to the 300,000 it called up in October, in another apparent sign that Vladimir Putin has no intention of ending the war.
Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy military intelligence chief, said Ukraine believed the conscripts would be part of a string of Russian offensives over the spring and summer in the east and south of the country.
Russia has denied it is preparing a second wave of mobilization, with Putin saying last month it was “pointless” to talk about a new call-up, claiming that only half of those already mobilized had been sent to Ukraine.
Russian officials, including Putin, previously denied plans to order a mobilization before eventually declaring a “partial mobilization” in September.
Ukraine’s warning of a new mobilization comes as Russia claims to have adhered to its unilateral ceasefire on Orthodox Christmas.
The Russian defense ministry on Friday claimed its troops began observing a ceasefire from noon Moscow time “along the entire line of contact”. But, nevertheless, a fire station in Ukrainian-controlled Kherson was shelled, killing a firefighter and injuring four other people, according to Kherson’s regional administration.
Meanwhile, fighting appeared to have continued across the contact line in the eastern Donetsk region.
Citing witnesses in the Russian-occupied regional capital Donetsk, Reuters reported outgoing artillery fire from Russian positions on the city’s outskirts after the truce was meant to take effect. Russia’s Tass agency reported that Ukrainian forces had shelled the city at noon.
Denis Pushilin, the Russian-installed leader in Donetsk, on Thursday evening said Putin’s order only covered offensive operations and that his forces would hit back if fired upon.
Hours prior to the announced ceasefire, Russian rockets hit a residential building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, damaging 14 homes, the mayor said, adding that there were no casualties.
The Ukrainian estimate of troops set to be mobilized is higher than that in September, which proved widely unpopular and set off protests across Russia.
If the estimate proves correct, Russia will have almost doubled its prewar force in the space of a few months. Ukraine’s military intelligence said 280,000 Russian ground troops were currently deployed against Ukraine.