In its latest intelligence update, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Russia has boosted its defences in central Zaporizhzhia Oblast amid fears of an impending attack as its campaign continues to falter.
Russia tried to annex both regions via sham referendums last year before a renewed Ukrainian offensive which made several important gains, including Kherson city.
The MoD wrote: “In recent weeks, Russia has bolstered defensive fortifications in central Zaporizhzhia Oblast, southern Ukraine, especially between the towns of Vasilyvka and Orikhiv. Russia maintains a large force in this sector.
“The way Russia has worked on improving defences suggests commanders are highly likely pre-occupied with the potential for major Ukrainian offensive action in two sectors: either in northern Luhansk Oblast, or in Zaporizhzhia.”
The MoD added: “A major Ukrainian breakthrough in Zaporizhzhia would seriously challenge the viability of Russia’s ‘land bridge’ linking Russia’s Rostov region and Crimea; Ukrainian success in Luhansk would further undermine Russia’s professed war aim of ‘liberating’ the Donbas.
“Deciding which of these threats to prioritise countering is likely one of the central dilemmas for Russian operational planners.”
It follows reports that two thermal power plants in Ukraine’s Donetsk region controlled by Russian forces were damaged in a rocket attack by the Ukrainian army, Moscow-installed officials and Russian state news agency Tass said on Sunday.
Reuters also reported that early information suggested the plants in Zuhres and Novyi Svit had been hit and that some people on the spot had sustained injuries, the officials said on their Telegram channels.
Two people might be trapped under debris at the damaged Starobesheve power plant in Novyi Svit, Tass reported. Citing officials, it said the strike was carried out using a multiple rocket launcher system.
There was no immediate comment from Ukraine, which never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.
In order to try and restore the campaign, Ukrainian official also believe that Russia will mobilise up to 500,000 conscripts.
Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy military intelligence chief, said the recruits would take part in attacks over the spring and summer in the east and south of the country.
Currently, Ukrainian officials have reported that there were 280,000 Russian ground troops deployed in the country.
“We expect them to conduct offensives in Donetsk and Kharkiv regions, as well as possibly Zaporizhzhia but to defend in Kherson and Crimea, this is the number of men they will need for such a task,” Mr Skibitsky said when asked to explain why they expect such a surge of troops.
“If Russia loses this time around, then Putin will collapse.”