The war in Ukraine is set to enter a new phase, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said, with Russian forces “almost certainly” preparing for a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south.
In an intelligence update released on Saturday, the MoD said that Russian convoys of military trucks and artillery are shifting southwest from the Donbas region in anticipation of a renewed assault by Ukrainian forces in Kherson.
“Russia’s war on Ukraine is about to enter a new phase, with the heaviest fighting shifting to a roughly 350k kilometre frontline stretching southwest from near Zaporizhzhia to Kherson, paralleling the Dnieper River,” the tweet said.
The MoD said that equipment is also reportedly being moved from Russian-occupied Melitopol, Berdiansk, Mariupol and from mainland Russia via the Kerch Bridge into Crimea. Russia has also deployed battalion tactical groups, which comprise between 800 and 1,000 troops, to Crimea. These will “almost certainly” be used to support Russian troops, the MoD said.
Meanwhile, the MoD said that Ukrainian forces are “focusing their targeting on bridges, ammunition depots, and rail links with growing frequency in Ukraine’s southern regions”.
This includes a “strategically important railroad spur” that links Kherson to Russian-occupied Crimea. Ukrainian forces are using a “combination of block, damage, degrade, deny, destroy, and disrupt effects to try to affect Russia’s ability to logistically resupply”, the Mod added.
“Russia’s war on Ukraine is about to enter a new phase, with the heaviest fighting shifting to a roughly 350 kilometre front line stretching southwest from near Zaporizhzhya to Kherson, paralleling the Dnieper River,” they concluded.
It follows reports that President Biden is poised to approve a $1 billion assistance package for Ukraine, including munitions for long-range weapons and armoured medical transport.
Three sources briefed on the matter said the package, set to be announced on Monday, would include munitions for HIMARS and NASAMS surface-to-air missile system – both regarded as key to strengthening Ukraine’s defence.
HIMARS play a key role in the artillery duel between Ukraine and Russia, which has been described as “grinding” with very little movement of the front line in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
Since Vladimir Putin’s forces crossed the border in February, the conflict has settled into a war of attrition fought primarily in the east and south of Ukraine.
Moscow is trying to gain control of the Donbas, comprised of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014.
- The Evening Standard report