What's happening in Ukraine at the moment?

Russia is preparing for a massive assault while Zelenskyy tours Europe asking for more firepower. Here's what's going on

TOPSHOT - Residents take shelter in a metro station during an air strike alarm in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on February 10, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)
People take shelter in a metro station during an air strike alarm in Kyiv on Friday. (AFP via Getty Images)

What's happened? Today, air raid sirens have been blaring across Ukraine as civilians are urged to take shelter from Russian attacks. At least 17 missiles hit the city of Zaporizhzhia in the space of an hour on Friday, while Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said 10 Russian missiles had been shot down over the capital.

Russia has also hit power facilities in six regions with missiles and drones, causing blackouts across most of Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials believe that, following a bitter few weeks of winter, the long-awaited Russian offensive is now well underway. Following months of battlefield failures, it's believed president Vladimir Putin wants to be able to show off gains in time for the one-year anniversary of the invasion on 24 February.

Now read more about the wider picture...

Major assault on Ukraine

Ukraine is expecting Russia to launch another huge offensive to mark the one-year anniversary in two weeks' time - on 24 February - and has warned around 2,000 tanks and 300,000 soldiers have been prepared. Indeed, in some respects, the major assault has already started.

Kyiv believes that Russia "lives in symbolism” and, though the Kremlin's troops will probably not be ready in time, the allure of achieving significant military breakthroughs on and around the anniversary will be too much to resist.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) visits the Ustianskiy timber complex in the northern Arkhangelsk region on February 10, 2023. (Photo by Alexander RYUMIN / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER RYUMIN/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin pictured on Friday. (AFP via Getty Images)

The offensive is likely to be launched in the east, according to Ukraine, where Russia is trying to capture all the heavily-industrialised Donbas region or the south where it wants to widen its land corridor to the occupied peninsula of Crimea.

The West, however, remains unconvinced as to the likelihood of any Russian offensive being game-changing. According to the UK's Ministry of Defence, Russia has only managed to gain several hundred metres of territory per week, adding: "It remains unlikely that Russia can build up the forces needed to substantially affect the outcome of the war within the coming weeks."

Zelenskyy asks West for more firepower

Meanwhile, president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has spent the last few days trying to secure more firepower to secure Ukraine's long-term ability to fight Russia.

On Wednesday, he used a surprise visit to the UK to urge Rishi Sunak to provide “wings for freedom” by supplying his air force with advanced jets. He warned that without supplies such as jets, ammunition and long-range missiles, there is a risk of “stagnation” in the conflict.

Patriot surface-to-air  missile systems are seen at Warsaw Babice Airport in the Bemowo district of Warsaw, Poland on 06 February, 2023. Patriot missile systems purchased by Poland from the US last year have been redeployed to the Polish captial for military exercises as the war in neighbouring Ukraine enters its second year. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Patriot surface-to-air missile systems at Warsaw Babice Airport in Poland. (Getty Images)

Sunak said sending warplanes is “part of the conversation” about aid to Ukraine, but added the “first step” is training Ukrainian pilots - which defence secretary Ben Wallace subsequently said would be completed "probably post-conflict".

Zelensky also took his firepower bid to EU leaders on Thursday, saying "we have to enhance the dynamics of our co-operation".

What has Putin said recently?

Putin has long styled his war as a "special military operation", and insisted again on Thursday that "we did not start any hostilities, we are trying to end them".

Last week, he even compared his war to the fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

He is set to deliver his annual address to Russia's two houses of parliament on 21 February. This is another symbolic date, marking one year since Russia recognised two breakaway Ukrainian regions - Donetsk and Luhansk - as independent states. This was a key step before his decision to invade Ukraine three days later.

More reporting on Russia

Why did Russia invade Ukraine? (The Independent)

Zelensky's triumphant European trip ruffles diplomatic feathers (AFP)

Ex-British Army Chief Shares Bleak Prediction For How Long Ukraine War Will Last (HuffPost)

Watch: Zelenskyy pleads for jets as he urges Parliament to provide ‘wings for freedom’