The Ukrainian Air Force has claimed that it has seen no evidence of a buildup of Russian air power near its border, denying an earlier media report suggesting that this could signal a new major offensive.
Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft are concentrated in the same airfields as at the beginning of the war, according to Iurii Ihnat, the Speaker of the Air Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
“In total, it is almost the same number that was there before,” Ihnat said during a media address on February 20, 2023.
He was most likely reacting to previous reports in Western media that suggested Russia could ramp up its air raids in the near future.
The Financial Times was one of the first to report the possibility, referring to unnamed officials close to the matter. However, the newspaper also added that other officials had disagreed with the prediction.
According to the report, large number of Russian fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft have been observed arriving at airfields close to the Ukrainian border, as well as in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory.
The assault was expected to mark the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which started on February 24, 2023.
The outbreak of the invasion saw Russia conducting numerous air raids, including an aerial assault on Hostomel airport near Kyiv. However, aerial activities conducted by Russian Aerospace Forces were much smaller in scale than predicted by Western observers.
In addition, the activity waned further as both Russia and Ukraine suffered large losses of aircraft and personnel in the first months of the conflict. As the frontlines stabilized, ground-based air defense (GBAD) networks were established on both sides, greatly limiting the possibilities to perform air raids for both sides.