Russian soldiers in Mariupol
Two Russian soldiers patrol in the Mariupol drama theatre, bombed last March 16, in Mariupol on April 12, 2022 ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images


  • Russian troops are fortifying their defenses in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts
  • Fortifications are also being built in the occupied region of Mariupol
  • Ukraine has hinted that it will launch the first steps of its counteroffensive 'soon'

Around 152,000 Russian soldiers are now being deployed to several occupied territories in Ukraine in preparation for Kyiv's much-anticipated counteroffensive.

The soldiers are being positioned in occupied southern Ukrainian territories, specifically Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts, according to Ukraine's Defense Intelligence. Experts believe Ukraine may target to liberate either one or both regions in an attempt to gain access to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.

"We are not seeing troops being withdrawn from Zaporizhzhia or Kherson oblasts. Yes, they're making motions: taking away some things, evacuating some people, looting, but we are not seeing military units being withdrawn. In Enerhodar, for example, they are taking away everything they can – cars, medical equipment – but they do not withdraw," Ukraine's Defense Ministry said in a Monday report, as translated by Ukrainska Pravda. "They are clearly aware that there will be fighting there."

In addition to deploying troops, Andrii Cherniak, a spokesman for the Defense Intelligence, said Russia is also working on fortifying its defenses in hopes of giving its army better chances of holding their current positions when Ukraine launches its counteroffensive operations.

"The adversary understands that they have absolutely no strength left for any active offensive actions. The only task before them is to maintain the positions they currently have. There is absolutely no question of any further offensive," he said in an interview for RBC-Ukraine, per translations via Google Translate.

A similar strategy is also being seen in Mariupol, with Russian troops building fortifications near bridges over the Kalchyk and Kalmius rivers, as reported by Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, on Telegram.

It is unclear when Ukraine will launch its highly-anticipated counteroffensive. Ukrainian officials have been wary about revealing a specific timeline, but President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday said the "first important steps" of the counteroffensive "would be taken soon."

Prior to this remark, Zelensky had said that Ukraine still needs "a bit more time" before launching the counteroffensive to allow more weapons and military aid promised by the West to arrive.

Among the war equipment Ukraine has received from the West are the Leopard 1 and 2 battle tanks and the IRIS-T SLM air-defense system from Germany and the M2 Bradley fighting vehicles from the United States.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket system towards Russian troops in Donetsk region