Russia builds defensive lines to stem Ukraine’s advance

Russian authorities are building defensive positions in occupied areas of Ukraine and regions bordering Russia, reflecting fears that Ukrainian forces could attack along new sections of the 1,000 kilometer front line from a war approaching its ninth month.

In recent weeks, Ukraine has focused its counter-offensive mainly on the Kherson region.

Their relentless artillery strikes cut off major crossing points on the Dnieper River, which cut the southern region in two, leaving Russian troops on the western bank short of supplies and vulnerable to encirclement.

Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian-installed regional administration in Kherson, said in a radio interview on Sunday that Russian defensive lines “have been strengthened and the situation has remained stable” as local officials have strongly encouraged all the inhabitants of the capital of the region and the surrounding area. regions on Saturday to evacuate by ferry to the east bank of the river.

The region is one of four that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and brought under Russian martial law on Thursday.

The city of Kherson has been in Russian hands since the early days of the war, but Ukrainian forces have made progress in reclaiming it.

About 20,000 Kherson residents have moved to places on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River, the Kremlin-backed regional administration reported. Ukraine’s military said on Sunday that the Russian army had also withdrawn its officers from areas of the West Bank, leaving newly mobilized and inexperienced forces.

The Ukrainian claim could not be independently verified.

As Ukraine heads south after liberating the northern Kharkiv region last month, authorities in Russia’s western provinces bordering northeast Ukraine appeared nervous.

The governor of Russia’s Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, said on Sunday that two defensive lines had been built and a third would be completed by November 5.

Defensive lines have also been established in the Belgorod region, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

He posted photos on Saturday of lines of concrete blocks in the shape of a pyramid to block the movement of armored vehicles.

Other defensive positions are being built in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, according to an announcement by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a millionaire Russian businessman nicknamed “Putin’s boss”. Prigozhin owns the Wagner Group, a mercenary military company that played a leading role in the war.

He said his company was building a “Wagner line” in the Luhansk region, another of the Ukrainian provinces illegally annexed by Putin last month. Prigozhin released images on Wednesday showing a section of newly constructed defenses and trench systems southeast of the city of Kreminna.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that “the draft suggests that Russia is making a significant effort to prepare defenses in depth behind the current front line which are likely to deter any swift Ukrainian counter-offensive.” Russian forces captured Luhansk several months ago. Pro-Moscow separatists declared independent republics in the region and neighboring Donetsk eight years ago, and Putin made control of both provinces a goal at the start of the war.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said on Sunday that Russia’s latest strategy to target power plants appeared to be aimed at diminishing Ukrainians’ will to fight and forcing the government in Kyiv to devote more resources to the protection of civilians and energy infrastructure.

He said the effort was unlikely to harm Ukrainian morale, but would have significant economic impacts.

Nine regions across Ukraine, from Odessa in the southwest to Kharkiv in the northeast, have seen more attacks targeting energy and other critical infrastructure in the past day, the state said. Major of the Ukrainian army.

He reported a total of 25 Russian airstrikes and more than 100 missile and artillery strikes around Ukraine.

Russian attacks have forced the emergency suspension of fertilizer production at a major chemical plant in northwestern Ukraine.

The company that operates the plant, Rivneazot, said on Sunday that the suspension posed no environmental risk.

Russian S-300 missiles hit a residential area in the city of Mykolaiv overnight, injuring three people, according to the Ukrainian army’s southern command.

Two apartment buildings, a playground and a warehouse were damaged or destroyed, he said in a Facebook post.

Footage posted to Telegram by local media and officials showed an apartment building with a sheared side and piles of rubble amid puddles of water on the adjacent land.

Ukrainian counteroffensive forces in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, meanwhile, targeted Russian-held facilities, including in the town of Nova Kakhovka, and carried out 17 airstrikes during the campaign. overall, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian army.

In a Telegram article on Sunday, the Ukrainian military claimed to have destroyed 14 Iranian-made Russian drones in the past day.

The mayor of Enerhodar, which houses the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, reported an attack on a hotel used by the Russian occupation forces and people collaborating with them.

It was unclear if anyone had been injured.

Separately, Ukraine’s security services said on Sunday they had arrested the longtime head of a major aircraft engine factory, accusing him of collaborating with Russia by supplying military equipment for Russian attack jets.

Viacheslav Bohuslaiev, chairman of the Motor Sich factory in Zaporizhzhia, and another senior factory official were charged with collaboration and “assisting the aggressor state”. Ukraine’s SBU security service said in a statement that the two men were accused of colluding with a Russian arms manufacturer close to the Kremlin to supply Ukrainian-made engines and spare parts to Russian forces.

The SBU described a complex scheme using intermediaries in three countries to evade sanctions against Russia.

Motor Sich is one of the leading Ukrainian manufacturers and a key manufacturer of aircraft engines since Soviet times.

Its facilities were repeatedly targeted by Russian strikes during the war.

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Christi C. Elwood