Russia says it is pushing Ukrainian forces back, will create two new armies

By Thomson Reuters Mar 20, 2024 | 8:10 AM

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Wednesday its soldiers were pushing Ukrainian forces back and that Moscow would bolster its military by adding two new armies and 30 new formations by the end of this year.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine in 2022, swiftly pulled back some of its forces in the east and south after over-extending but has been slowly advancing after a Ukrainian counteroffensive last year failed to make significant gains.

Russia controls a little under one fifth of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to push further forward after Moscow took the small eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka last month.

“Groups of Russian troops continue to squeeze the enemy out of their positions,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told senior generals. “The United States and its satellites are extremely concerned about the success of the Russian Armed Forces.”

“The combined grouping of troops will continue to build on the successes achieved and increase the live fire impact on enemy targets.”

Russia, which has recruited hundreds of thousands of contract soldiers, will create two new armies and 30 formations including 14 divisions and 16 brigades, Shoigu said.

Western spy chiefs say the war could be at a turning point as Kyiv needs more arms from its Western allies to avoid more battlefield setbacks. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday Ukraine’s survival was in danger.

Russia has since the 2022 invasion taken 65,000 square km (25,000 square miles) of Ukrainian territory, according to Harvard Kennedy School’s Russia Matters project.


Ukraine is debating a new mobilisation law as it faces a shortage of battle-ready troops, and support from Washington has been held up by political wrangling ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.

Before Russia’s March 15-17 presidential election, Ukraine stepped up attacks by shelling Russian border regions, attacking refineries and using proxies to try to pierce the border.

Shoigu said security had been tightened at Russian government and other facilities, and air defences strengthened.

Russia shot down 419 Ukrainian drones and 67 rockets during the election and inflicted heavy losses on the Ukrainian proxies, he said. Reuters was unable to verify the figures.

Putin has said Russia will punish Ukraine for the attacks and that he might carve a buffer zone from more Ukrainian territory as defence against attacks by Western-supplied artillery.

“The primary task is to guarantee security. There are different methods here, they aren’t easy but we will do this,” Putin told a Kremlin meeting on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Timothy Heritage)