They said Russian air and maritime forces have failed to establish control and that heavy fighting was continuing in Mariupol - despite the Kremlin’s claim last week to have conquered the southern port city.
In its latest intelligence update on Saturday morning, the Ministry of Defence chiefs said: “Despite incresaed activity, Russian forces have made no major gains in the last 24 hours as Ukrainian counter-attacks continue to hinder their efforts.
“Russian air and maritime forces have not established control in either domain owing to the effectiveness of Ukraine’s air and sea defence reducing their ability to make notable progress.
“Despite their states conquest of Mariupol, heavy fighting continues to take place frustrating Russian attempts to capture the city thus further slowing their desired progress in the Donbas.”
It comes hours after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Russia’s invasion of his country was just the beginning and that Moscow has designs on capturing other countries.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 23 April 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/dYZnTBfSNG
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/9HFqZQlmbe
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) April 23, 2022
“All the nations that, like us, believe in the victory of life over death must fight with us. They must help us, because we are the first in line. And who will come next?” Mr Zelensky said in a late-night video address.
The deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, Rustam Minnekayev, had been quoted by Russian state news agencies on Friday as saying full control over southern Ukraine would give it access to Transnistria, a breakaway Russian-occupied part of Moldova in the west.
That would cut off Ukraine’s entire coastline and mean Russian forces pushing hundreds of miles further west, past the major Ukrainian coastal cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa.
The statement was one of the most detailed about Moscow’s ambitions in Ukraine and suggests Russia does not plan to wind down its offensive there anytime soon.
Ukraine’s defence ministry said Mr Minnekayev’s comments showed Russia was no longer hiding its intentions.
It said on Twitter that Moscow had now “acknowledged that the goal of the ‘second phase’ of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine. Imperialism as it is.”
Moldova’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Moscow’s ambassador on Friday to express “deep concern” about the general’s comments.
It said Moldova was neutral. Moldova last month applied to join the European Union, charting a pro-Western course hastened by Russia’s invasion.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on whether Russia had expanded its goals or on how Moscow saw the political future of southern Ukraine.
A senior EU official said the next couple of weeks would likely be decisive. “We are likely to see a very significant increase in the intensity of Russian military attacks in the east (and on) the coast,” he told reporters.
Ukraine’s military said Russia is continuing its offensive operations in the east, trying to establish full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and secure a land connection to Crimea.
Russian forces are also partially blockading the city of Kharkiv, according to a Saturday morning update from Ukraine’s general staff.
In Mykolaiv, 87 civilians have died in the invasion, including one child, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said late Friday on his Facebook page. Nearly 400 people have been wounded. The reports from either side have not been independently verified.
In Geneva, the United Nations human rights office said there was growing evidence of Russian war crimes, including indiscriminate shelling and summary executions. It said Ukraine also appeared to have used weapons with indiscriminate effects.
Russia denies targeting civilians and says, without evidence, that signs of atrocities committed by its soldiers were faked.