Russia prepares for Ukrainian counterattack in ‘new phase’ of war


The war in Ukraine is entering a new phase as Russian troops mass in the south for a Ukrainian counter-offensive, Western analysts say.

The new frontline emerging near Zaporizhzia has sparked fresh concerns over the safety of the city’s nuclear power plant after Russia and Ukraine accused each other of bombing the site.

Ukraine said Russia was on the defensive in the south and had carried out airstrikes as it tried to hold onto captured territory, some of which had been seized in the early weeks of the war.

An intelligence update by the British Ministry of Defense on Saturday said convoys of Russian tanks, trucks and weapons were being repositioned south from the eastern Donbass region.

It was also reported that equipment had been moved from Russian-occupied Mariupol and the Crimean peninsula, annexed in 2014, where battalion-sized units were being prepared.

The battalions massed in Crimea “will most likely be sent to the Kherson region in the coming days”, the ministry said.

“Russia’s war against Ukraine is about to enter a new phase, with the heaviest fighting moving to a frontline of about 350 km stretching southwest, from near from Zaporizhzhia to Kherson.”

Ukraine is believed to be hitting bridges, ammunition depots and rail links to weaken Russia’s ability to resupply its forces.

Russia said it shot down three ballistic missiles near Kherson, the first major city it occupied after invading Ukraine in February.

The Russian occupiers in Kherson are believed to be planning a referendum on possible annexation by Moscow, echoing the 2014 vote in Crimea that Western powers called a deception.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week that his forces were “gradually advancing” in Kherson and Kharkiv as they tried to regain lost ground.

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank in Washington, said in a daily assessment that Russia’s strengthening of Kherson came “at the expense of efforts to seize Sloviansk”, a city ​​of Donetsk “which they seem to have abandoned”.

Russia initially sought to capture the capital Kyiv, but was rebuffed in the first weeks of the war. He then refocused his offensive on Luhansk and Donetsk, capturing the former and making significant progress in the latter.

Mr Zelenskyy said Russia had caused an “extremely risky situation for everyone in Europe” by firing on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant twice in one day.

This is the last nuclear alert in the 163 days of conflict. Russian troops had occupied the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 and fighting threatened Zaporizhzhia’s power supply.

Russia-Ukraine War – in pictures

“This is the largest nuclear power plant on our continent. And any bombing of this facility is an open and shameless crime, an act of terror,” Zelenskyy said.

A senior adviser to Mr Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Saturday it was a miracle the plant did not explode. He called on the UN to hand over control of the factory to a special commission.

But Russia denied any responsibility. The Defense Ministry in Moscow said it was the Ukrainian military that launched three artillery strikes on the plant, Russian news agency Interfax reported.

Russia said it captured 70 people suspected of helping the Ukrainian military and security services in the surrounding area.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said last week that the plant was “completely out of control” and that “all principles of nuclear safety have been violated”.

Updated: August 06, 2022, 10:39 a.m.


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