As spring get under way in Ukraine, an ominous lull in hostilities has fallen over the battlefields in the war Russia began last year.
Moscow’s winter offensive never quite materialised despite the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of mostly untrained men. Many were shipped straight to the front line only to be killed in what survivors called “cannon fodder storms”.
With the jailing of critics and an American journalist, the Kremlin seems to have scored more victories against dissent and the fractured domestic opposition than in Ukraine as Russian forces barely inched forward in the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut.
At the same time, Ukraine has not regained any ground in the southern region of Kherson or the eastern region of Kharkiv in the months after Russia retreated from key areas there.
As spring rains turn soil into mud impassable for troops and heavy weaponry, Ukraine is amassing fresh forces trained to use new Western arms, and its long promised counteroffensive seems imminent.
“We are confident the counteroffensive is taking place in the nearest future,” Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said last week. “The US absolutely supports us.”
But where and how will it begin?
A Western military analyst said he thinks Ukraine has enough manpower and gear to call the shots.
“Whenever they choose to begin their counteroffensive, they’re going to have sufficient trained and equipped manpower,” retired US army Major General Gordon Skip Davis told Al Jazeera
Kyiv’s only major drawback, a dire shortage of air forces, can be compensated by improved air defence capability, he said, and US-made Patriot air defence systems arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday.