Use nuclear strike to stop Ukraine’s counter-offensive, says former Russian general

Plumes of smoke erupt as Ukrainian unit breaches mine defences as part of a southern counter-offensive in the Zaporizhzhia region
Plumes of smoke erupt as Ukrainian unit breaches mine defences as part of a southern counter-offensive in the Zaporizhzhia region - 36TH SEPARATE MARINE INFANTRY BRIGADE/REUTERS

A former Russian general has called for a tactical nuclear strike in southern Ukraine after Kyiv’s forces were said to be gaining a foothold near some of Moscow’s weakest defences in the area.

Pro-Kremlin MP Andrey Gurulev, 55, a retired lieutenant-general, urged Russian military leaders to target the Zaporizhzhia region village of Robotyne recently recaptured by Kyiv.

“The village of Rabotino is an ideal place for the use of tactical nuclear weapons,” Mr Gurulev said.

“They [Ukrainians] have all gathered there in one place... It’s just perfect.”

Ukraine celebrated the tiny settlement’s liberation on Monday at the culmination of an 11-week battle on the southern front line.

On Tuesday, Kyiv’s military announced its troops had made further progress around Verbove, around seven miles to the east, in their push southwards towards the Sea of Azov.

The latest assault appeared to be targeting a Russian anti-tank ditch between the two villages of Robotyne and Verbove.

Images captured from a Nasa satellite showed burn marks close to the trench and nearby concrete dragon’s teeth anti-tank barricades.

Ukraine’s general staff said its forces had “achieved success... within the recaptured frontiers” and were hitting enemy targets with artillery fire.

Enemy closing in

Russian sources warned that their enemy was slowly closing in on one of Moscow’s main lines of defence in the southern Zaporizhzhia region.

One prominent pro-Kremlin military blogger, Romanov, described the situation in the area as “very dangerous” in a post on the Telegram messaging app on Tuesday.

WarGonzo, another blogger, who has more than a million subscribers, voiced concerns over the vulnerabilities of Russian positions along the defensive lines between Robotyne and Verbove if Ukraine continues to push in the area.

Success around Verbove would hand Kyiv’s forces a wider wedge of territory as they attempt to push towards the Russian-occupied Tokmak, a key road and rail hub.

Western analysts have suggested Ukraine was pushing to find a potential weakness in Russia’s “Surovikin Line”, the main chain of fortifications protecting its land bridge to Crimea.

The defensive line west of Verbove appeared to be “in a significantly worse state” than other areas across the heavily-fortified southern front line, Emil Kastehelmi, an open source intelligence analyst, said.

‘No covered firing positions’

A comparison of satellite images taken at the beginning and end of August appeared to show “almost no signs of any trench improvements”, he added.

“There are sections with no covered firing positions and very few accommodation bunkers, even though great effort was put into this in other places.”

Ukraine’s advance has been slow through the southern region as its forces attempt to fight through the Russian fortifications.

Minefields that stretch for more than half a mile each were blamed for much of the damage dealt to Western-donated tanks and armoured vehicles used by Kyiv’s men.

In the 13 weeks since Ukraine launched its counter-offensive, its forces have lost five of the 71 German-made Leopard 2 tanks, Forbes reported.

Meanwhile, a senior Ukrainian official announced the mandatory evacuation of children from several villages close to the front lines in Zaporizhzhia.

Yuri Malashko, head of the region’s military administration, said: “There are 54 children and 67 accompanying family members. That is 121 people that need to be evacuated.”

“There are on average of 90 to 120 attacks per day, and these are the settlements that are constantly under fire. Given the fact that our information campaign that was constantly conducted did not give results, and due to the unconsciousness and negligence of parents, children suffered first of all, we decided that a decision should be made on mandatory evacuation,” he added.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Ukraine’s military said it was continuing offensive operations south of the Donetsk region city of Bakhmut, while halting Russian efforts to advance in other parts of the oblast.

Ukrainian forces purportedly raised their blue and yellow national flag near the Antonivka Bridge on the Russian-occupied left bank of the Dnipro River near the city of  Kherson.

A video of the moment was shared by Andriy Yermak, Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, who said: “The Ukrainian flag in the left-bank Kherson region. Summer houses near the Antonivka Bridge.”