Ukrainian leaders fear the main fights in their war against Russia are yet to come. And they suspect Russian troops are preparing for a "maximum escalation."
Analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War say the Russians have not let up in their operations around the eastern city of Bakhmut. Those units have only made "limited territorial gains," but the analysts say Ukrainian commanders may choose to withdraw rather than risk losses they see as "unacceptable."
Ukrainian troops are hoping advanced Western tanks will help them prevent such losses. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius visited a base at Augustdorf to inspect Leopard 2s, one of the models to be sent to Ukraine. He said Germans need to do everything they can to help Ukrainians "survive in this fight."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the Ukrainians of hitting civilian targets in his country. Leaders in Kyiv have denied any responsibility. However, Putin says many people have been left homeless or without power.
Putin said, "Of course the priority task is to eliminate the very possibility of shelling. But this is the business of the military."
Putin has relied on support from his allies in Belarus. President Alexander Lukashenko says Belarusians are always ready to help. His troops have completed their training and are now in control of nuclear-capable Iskander guided missile systems. The missiles can hit targets up to 500 kilometers away.