In its latest intelligence update this morning, the MoD said as many as 1,700 Ukrainians have likely surrendered after being holed up in the Azovstal steel in Mariupol for several weeks. Once Russia has secured the besieged city in Ukraine, forces will likely turn their attention to strengthening operations in the industrial Donbas region, the focus of recent Russian offensives.
But the MoD warned fierce Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol over the past three months may have hit Russia hard, and it could take some time for forces in the area to be “re-equipped and refurbished before they can be redeployed effectively”.
Russian commanders are coming under increasing pressure to demonstrably achieve operational objectives, meaning Moscow risks quickly redeploying forces without adequate preparation and thus limiting their effectiveness.
The MoD said in the intelligence update on Twitter: “As many as 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers are likely to have surrendered from the Mariupol Azovstal steel factory.
“An unknown number of Ukrainian forces remain inside the factory.
“Once Russia has secured Mariupol, it is likely they will move their forces to reinforce operations in the Donbas.”
The MoD further warned: “Staunch Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol since the start of the war means Russian forces in the area must be re-equipped and refurbished before they can be redeployed effectively.
“This can be a lengthy process when done thoroughly.
“Russian commanders, however, are under pressure to demonstrably achieve operational objectives.
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“This means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition.”
The latest update comes with Ukraine general staff warning Russian forces have intensified their offensive in the Donbas region using artillery, rocket-launchers and aircraft to damage defences around Donetsk.
It said in a statement: “The Russian enemy carried out massive artillery shelling of civilian infrastructure, including multiple rocket-launchers.”
Russian shelling in Luhansk, also in the Donbas, has killed 13 civilians over the past 24 hours, according to regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai, who added 12 were killed in the town of Sievierodonesk, where a Russian assault had been unsuccessful.
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Ukraine’s Prosecutor General office said 232 children had been killed and 427 wounded since the start of the Russian invasion. Russia has always denies targeting civilians.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Donbas region has been destroyed, as some of the world’s richest countries pledged to bolster Ukraine with billions of pounds.
He said in an address on Thursday night: “The occupiers are trying to exert even more pressure. It is hell there – and that is not an exaggeration,”
The Ukrainian President said there were also “constant strikes” on the Odesa region in the south, adding: “The Donbas is completely destroyed.”