Russia and Ukraine ‘massing significant forces’ in Zaporizhzhia, says UK

Russia and Ukraine ‘massing significant forces’ in Zaporizhzhia, says UK

Russian and Ukrainian forces are massing in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, UK defence chiefs have said.

Early in the conflict, Russian forces captured the nuclear power plant in the region - the largest in Europe - sparking widespread concern from outside sources due to the shelling and artillery fire which has since taken place nearby.

The region was also one of four the Kremlin attempted to annexe last year via sham referendums.

Although fighting remains in a state of “deadlock”, the Ministry of Defence’s latest update said: “In the south, in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, both sides have massed significant forces, which have conducted artillery exchanges and skirmishes, but have avoided any large-scale offensive effort.

“Overall, the conflict is in a state of deadlock. However, there is a realistic possibility of local Russian advances around Bakhmut.”

Elsewhere, fighting has raged in both Soledar and Bakhmut in recent weeks. Such is the symbolic importance of the latter, that Volodymyr Zelensky visited the frontlines in December before he gave a speech to the US Congress.

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The MoD writes: “In recent days, the heaviest fighting has focused in three sectors. In the northeast, near Kremina, Ukraine has likely made small gains and successfully defended against a Russian counter-attack.

“Around the Donetsk Oblast, in Bakhmut sector, Russian and Wagner proxy forces have likely been reconstituting in the town of Soledar, after capturing it earlier in the week.”

It comes after Russia claimed to have captured a village following a months-long push toward the city of Bakhmut.

Igor Konashenkov, Russia’s defence ministry spokesman, told a media briefing the village of Klishchiivka, five miles south of Bakhmut, had been “liberated”.

The claim could not be independently verified and Ukrainian officials made no immediate comment.

Taking Klishchiivka would be only a minor breakthrough for Russia, but the Kremlin is hungry for advances on the battlefield after months of setbacks.

The war has been largely static during the winter months, according to military analysts, except for some hot spots such as Bakhmut and nearby Soledar.

The Kremlin’s forces have kept up their long-distance shelling, hitting infrastructure and civilian areas.