Ukrainian forces ‘destroying the potential of the occupiers’ in the south, says Zelensky as battles rage in Donbas

Ukrainian forces ‘destroying the potential of the occupiers’ in the south, says Zelensky as battles rage in Donbas

President Zelensky has claimed Ukrainian forces are “destroying the potential of the occupiers” in the south of the country as battles rage in the Donbas.

Some of the Kremlin’s troops which fled the southern city of Kherson in recent weeks have been moved to reinforce Russia positions in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which make up the eastern Donbas.

On Sunday night, Ukraine’s leader reported the “fiercest battles” were taking place in Donetsk.

Speaking in his latest nightly video address, Mr Zelensky said: “Although there were fewer attacks today due to worsening weather, the amount of Russian shelling unfortunately remains extremely high.

“In the Luhansk region, we are slowly moving forward while fighting. As of now, there have been almost 400 artillery attacks in the east since the start of the day”.

Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a destroyed building of an airport outside Kherson (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a destroyed building of an airport outside Kherson (AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Zelensky said troops in the south were “consistently and very calculatedly destroying the potential of the occupiers”, without giving details.

UK defence chiefs on Monday reported intense fire between Russian and Ukrainian forces around the city of Svatove in the north-eastern Luhansk region over the past week.

“As on other parts of the front, Russian forces continue to prioritise constructing defensive positions, almost certainly partially manned by poorly trained mobilised reservists,” the Ministry of Defence said in its latest intellogence update.

The Svatove area is now a “more vulnerable operational flank of the Russian force,” and its leaders will likely see retaining control of it as a “political priority”, the MoD said.

“However, commanders are likely struggling with the military realities of maintaining a credible defence, while also attempting to resource offensive operations further south in Donetsk.

“Both Russian defensive and offensive capability continues to be hampered by severe shortages of munitions and skilled personnel.”

It comes as the UN nuclear watchdog warned that forces responsible for firing artillery at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant at the weekend was “playing with fire”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said more than a dozen blasts shook the Russian-occupied nuclear plant late on Saturday and yesterday.

IAEA head Rafael Grossi said the attacks were extremely disturbing.

“Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire!”, Mr Grossi said in a statement.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossie speaking on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossie speaking on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)

Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the shelling of the facility, as they have done repeatedly in recent months.

UN inspectors were planning to visit the plant today to check for damage.

Mr Zelensky’s latest address came a day after Rishi Sunak conducted his first visit to the war-torn country.

Britain’s prime minister anounced a £50 million package of defence aid comprising 125 anti-aircraft guns and technology to help Ukraine counter Iranian-supplied drones, including radars and anti-drone technology.