Ukraine shaping battlefield ahead of game changing offensive

Russian regiment appeals for equipment in cold Ukrainian conditions

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Melitopol has been raised as the Ukrainian military’s next possible target following a series of dramatic offensives to liberate Russian-held territory so far this winter. The town has been rocked by a string of explosions in recent days targetting Russian troops and supply lines which have been credited to the Ukrainian army.

Defence and Security Analyst Professor Michael Clarke told Sky News: “In the last few days there have been a number of explosions around Melitopol.

“Sabotage of the key bridge over the M47 highway, that main highway that runs all the way to Kherson.

“Attacks on Wagner troop bases around the area of Melitopol, the view of most analysts is the Ukrainians are engaged here with shaping the battlefield.

“They are doing in Melitopol what they did in Kherson which is prepare the battlefield by cutting off Russian logistics.”

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He added: “Now Russian troops are getting thinner and thinner on the ground.

“The speculation is Ukraine might use their Second and Fourth Armies, these a brigade size, they call them armies but they have a number of brigades, who are in reserve.

“They might use those forces to push down from Zaporizhzhia right down to Melitopol on the coast.

“In other words to open up a third front in this series of offensives over the winter.”

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Professor Clarke continued: “Now if they do that they will be relying on the colder weather, the frozen ground so that their armour, their tracked vehicles can really make an impression.

“We don’t know yet if they will do it but if they did that would be another game-changer in their attempt to win back as much territory as they have lost since February 24.”

Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, reported that Ukraine attacked a hotel that reportedly housed analysts from Russia’s top security agency, the FSB.

Moscow did not comment on that claim, and none of the reports could be independently confirmed. 

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Russian officials, meanwhile, accused Ukrainian forces of blowing up pillars of a bridge in a suburb of Melitopol on Monday night.

Various reports said Russian forces had been using the bridge to transport supplies and that traffic across it has now stopped.

In the eastern Donbas region, made up of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, again has become a focus of intense fighting, particularly around the city of Bakhmut.

Ukrainian officials said Monday the country’s forces hit a hotel in the Luhansk region that served as a headquarters of the Wagner Group, a private Russian military contractor and mercenary group that has played a prominent role in eastern Ukraine.

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