Attacks in the Donbas intensifying amid ‘major’ Ukrainian offensive rumour , says UK

·3-min read
Soldiers walk through destroyed military hardware  (AP)
Soldiers walk through destroyed military hardware (AP)

Russian attacks have intensified in eastern Ukraine in the past five days amid fears that the Ukrainians are planning a major counter offensive, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has warned.

In its latest daily update, the ministry added that there has been "intense fighting" near the towns of Siversk and Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

"Pro-Russian separatists militia have probably made some progress towards the centre of the village of Pisky, near Donetsk Airport," it added.

Despite this, the MoD has said that Russia have only made a "few territorial gains" overall.

"There is a realistic possibility that Russia has increased its efforts in the Donbas in an attempt to draw in or fix additional Ukrainian units, amid speculation that Ukraine is planning a major counter offensive," it said.

It comes after Moscow was accused of putting the world "on the brink of radiation catastrophe" after the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid.

Nearby fires damaged overhead power lines linking the last two working reactors at the Russian-held plant to the national electricity grid.

State nuclear company Energoatom said: "As a result, the station’s two working power units were disconnected from the network."

Officials confirmed security systems at Europe’s largest nuclear facility were working and radiation levels were normal as they battled to reconnect one of the reactor blocks.

Petro Kotin, head of Energoatom, said he has seen Russian engineers’ plans to cut off the plant from the grid and connect it to Russia’s network. He warned switching the grids would risk a catastrophic failure of the cooling systems at the plant.

He said: "You cannot just switch from one system to another immediately. During disconnection, the plant won’t be connected to any power supply and that is the reason for the danger. If you fail to provide cooling... then you will have melting already."

An anonymous energy official said the reactors were being powered by diesel generators.

At a meeting with the United Nations President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of turning Zaporizhzhia into a "war zone", endangering the people of Europe and putting the world "on the brink of radiation catastrophe".

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has ordered his military chiefs to find an extra 137,000 soldiers.

The Russian president made the decree as Western officials said the country has lost an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 troops since its February invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin has not revealed its losses since March. Its original invading army was around 180,000.

The increase, wanted from next year, could be achieved by drafting more conscripts, boosting the number of volunteer soldiers, or a mix of the two.

Russia is already seeking volunteers, engaging private military contractors and even offering amnesties to prisoners in exchange for signing up.