The war in Ukraine is poised to enter a new phase, British military intelligence chiefs have said this morning.
Russian forces are “almost certainly” massing in the south in preparation for a counteroffensive from Ukrainewarned the Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Saturday.
Long convoys of military trucks, tanks and towed artillery move southwest away from Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, the MoD tweeted in an intelligence update.
“Russia‘s war against Ukraine is entering a new phase, with the heaviest fighting moving to a roughly 350 km long front line stretching southwest from near Zaporizhzhia to Kherson, parallel to the Dnieper River,” the tweet said.
The battalion’s tactical groups – comprising between 800 and 1,000 troops – have been deployed to annexed Crimea and are expected to support Russian troops in Kherson, according to the MoD update.
Equipment is also believed to have been moved from the Russian mainland and areas occupied by Moscow – including Melitopol, Berdiansk and Mariupol – via the Kerch bridge into Crimea.
Kyiv is increasingly targeting bridges, ammunition depots and rail links in the southern regions.
Key to this strategy is the vital rail link connecting Kherson to Crimea, with a combination of “block, damage, deny, destroy and disrupt” effects to be deployed in the hope of impeding Russia’s ability to logistically supply itself.
The MoD warning comes hours after both Kiev and the Kremlin accused each other of shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.
The facility was seized by Russian forces in March, but is still operated by Ukrainian technicians.
Meanwhile, the southern frontline city of Mykolaiv imposed an unusually long curfew from late Friday to early Monday morning as authorities try to catch people collaborating with Russian rivals, the region’s governor said.
Some 131 deaths, including a child, have been recorded in the southern port city, located on the Black Sea, since the start of the invasion.
Seven children are among another 590 people injured in the attack on Mykolaiv.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said the consequences of hitting an operating reactor are “equivalent to the use of a nuclear bomb” – as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded new sanctions against the Russian nuclear industry.
But Russia’s Defense Ministry retaliated by claiming that it was a matter of luck that a radiation leak was avoided.
Earlier this week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned humanity was “just a misunderstanding away from nuclear annihilation” – citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine among crises “with nuclear undertones lingering”.