The war in Ukraine is ‘about to enter a new phase’ as both armies gear up for renewed fighting, UK military intelligence has warned.
Battle lines are being redrawn as Russia prepares as defending troops escalate efforts to retake land in the south.
The warning from the Ministry of Defence comes amid fighting around Europe’s largest nuclear power station.
A new 217-mile front stretching southwest from near Zaporizhzhia, where the huge atomic installation is located, to Kherson, parallel to the Dnieper River, looks set to be the scene of feirce clashes.
Both countries have accused each other of shelling which risks triggering a meltdown at the nuclear plant, the biggest of its kind.
Russia’s defence ministry claimed it was only by luck that a radiation accident had been avoided after what it described as an artillery barrage.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy though said Moscow was responsible and accused it of committing ‘an open, brazen crime, an act of terror’.
It’s not the first time fighting has broke out around a nuclear installation since the assault began in February but there are fears it could increase as the war shifts towards the region it is situated in.
Russian forces are almost certainly amassing in the south of Ukraine, anticipating a counter-offensive or in preparation for a possible assault, according to the MOD.
Long convoys of Russian military trucks, tanks, towed artillery and other weapons have been seen being transported away from the Donbas region and are headed southwest.
Battalion tactical groups (BTG), which comprise between 800 and 1,000 troops, have been deployed to Crimea and would almost certainly be used to support Russian troops in the Kherson region, the update said.
Ukraine’s forces are focusing their targeting on bridges, ammunition depots, rail links with growing frequency in its southern regions, including the strategically important railroad spur that links Kherson to Russian-occupied Crimea.
The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, said Ukraine’s shift to offensive manoeuvres had forced Russia to change course.
It said the Kremlin has increasingly transferred personnel and equipment from the Donbas towards southern Ukraine to push back at a Ukrainian counteroffensive around the occupied port city of Kherson.
Those attempts to secure Kherson come ‘at the expense of (Russian) efforts to seize Sloviansk … which they appear to have abandoned’, the institute’s analysts said.
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