Russian troops have started to reinforce their positions in key towns and regions in southern Ukraine as they prepare for an expected Ukrainian counter-offensive, even as Kremlin forces continue their assault in the Donbass region. to the East.
The British Ministry of Defense said on July 17 that Russia was moving troops and equipment between Kherson, Mariupol, Melitopol and Zaporizhzhya, where Russia occupies Europe’s largest nuclear power station.
“Given the pressures on Russian manpower, the strengthening of the south as the fight for Donbass continues indicates the seriousness with which Russian commanders view the threat,” the Briton said. statement said.
The comments come on the same day that Britain’s top military commander, Admiral Tony Radakin, told the BBC in an interview that Russia had lost some 50,000 troops killed or wounded in its invasion and nearly 1,700 tanks had been destroyed.
He warned, however, that any speculation that the setbacks would lead to the swift downfall of Russian President Vladimir Putin was “wishful thinking”.
A Ukrainian military official, meanwhile, said that Russia was preparing for the next stage of its offensive in Ukraine following orders from Moscow to intensify military operations, with the main objective of fully capturing the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, known as Donbass, but with attacks also occurring in central, northeast and southern Ukraine.
“It’s not just about air and sea missile fire,” said Vadym Skibitskiy, spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence. “We can see shelling all over the line of contact, all over the front line. There is active use of tactical aviation and attack helicopters.
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“There is indeed some enemy activation across the entire front line… It is clear that preparations are now underway for the next stage of the offensive.”
Kyiv has said in recent days that its forces are themselves preparing for a massive counter-offensive to reclaim previously lost land, particularly in the south.
The claims and counterclaims of both parties to the conflict are difficult to verify immediately.
On July 17, Russian missiles hit industrial facilities and infrastructure in and near the strategic southern city of Mykolayiv.
Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said the missiles hit a key shipbuilding center in the Southern Bug River estuary. There was no word on the casualties.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian army said on July 17 that Ukrainian troops had thwarted Russian attempts to advance towards Sloviansk, the main Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern region of Donetsk, and other attacks elsewhere in the region. region.
Moscow announced on July 16 that it would intensify its military operations in Ukraine.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave “instructions to further intensify the actions of units in all operational areas, in order to exclude the possibility of the Kyiv regime launching massive rocket and artillery strikes on the civilian infrastructure and residents of settlements in Donbass and other regions,” the Defense Ministry said.
Ukraine says at least 40 people have been killed in Russian shelling of urban areas in the past three days.
Russian missiles hit an industrial and infrastructure facility in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said on July 17. There was no immediate information about the casualties.
Also on July 17, relatives and local residents attended the funeral of 4-year-old Liza Dmytriyeva in the central Ukrainian town of Vinnytsya.
Liza, who suffered from Down syndrome, was killed in a missile strike on central Vinnytsia on July 14 that killed 24 people, according to Ukrainian authorities.
More than 200 other people were injured, including Liza’s mother, who remains in an intensive care unit in serious condition.
Three people were killed in a Russian strike in the town of Chuhuiv in northeastern Kharkiv region, regional governor Oleh Synyehubov said on July 16.
Speaking during his July 16 evening speech, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promised that his country would “endure”.
Zelenskiy said Ukraine had “withstood the brutal blows from Russia” and managed to regain some of the territory it had lost since the start of the war, and would eventually regain more occupied land.
A Ukrainian official has suggested that Crimea, which most of the world still recognizes as part of Ukraine but was annexed by Russia in 2014, could be a target for the recently received American-made HIMARS missiles and deployed by Kyiv.
“If any other state, be it Ukraine or NATO countries, believes that Crimea is not Russian, then it is a systemic threat to us,” former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said. July 17. Any external attack on the region will cause a “Doomsday”, he said.
On the diplomatic level, the European Union was to discuss on July 18 a toughening of sanctions against Russia.
Brussels is expected to hold initial talks on sanctions, but not make a decision on the day, a senior EU official was quoted by AFP as saying.