Russia 'moving reserves across country' to Ukraine border, says UK

Moscow using obsolete equipment to continue its offensive in Donbas

A destroyed Russian BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle near Pokrovske, eastern Ukraine. AFP
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Russia is moving its reserve forces across the country and assembling them near the border with Ukraine to continue its military offensive, Britain's defence ministry says.

In an updated intelligence briefing, UK officials said Moscow's reinforcements are often "ad-hoc" and being deployed with "obsolete or inappropriate equipment".

The move seems to contradict claims earlier this week by President Vladimir Putin that Russian ground forces had not yet been fully mobilised.

Russia's equipment losses have been so significant that it now has to rely on outdated MT-LB carriers to transport infantry to the battlefield, the MoD said on Twitter.

The MT-LB, initially designed in the 1950s as a tractor to pull artillery, only has one mounted machine gun for protection and has long been considered by Russia as "unsuitable for most front-line infantry transport roles".

The vehicles have been deployed following significant losses to the Russia's fleet of heavily armoured BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles.

Ukraine claims it has destroyed more than 3,000 personnel carriers in the first few months of the war, though this has not been independently verified.

It comes as Ukrainian defenders battled on Saturday to contain Russian forces along several fronts, officials said, particularly in the east of the country.

A missile strike on the north-eastern city of Kharkiv wounded three civilians, its governor said, though Russia's main attacks appeared focused southeast of there in Luhansk and Donetsk.

The two provinces, swathes of which were already held by pro-Russian separatists before Russia's invasion in February, comprise the eastern industrial region of the Donbas.

Donetsk regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on the Telegram messaging service that a Russian missile had struck Druzhkivka, a town behind the front line, and reported shelling of other population centres.

Ukrainian servicemen inspect a Russian MT-LB in the Kharkiv area, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, May 29, 2022.  The Ukrainian military has been recovering abandoned Russian combat vehicles on the frontline to repair them and use them to their advantage.  (AP Photo / Bernat Armangue)

Russian forces are managing to “raise true hell” in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland despite reports of them taking an operational pause, a regional governor said Saturday.

The government in Kyiv urged people in Russian-occupied areas in the south to evacuate “by all possible means” ahead of a Ukrainian offensive.

The governor of Luhansk, Serhyi Haidai, said Russia launched over 20 artillery, mortar and rocket strikes in the province overnight and its forces were pressing toward the border with neighbouring Donetsk.

“We are trying to contain the Russians’ armed formations along the entire front line,” Mr Haidai wrote on Telegram.

On Friday, Ukraine had pleaded for more of the high-end weapons from the West that Kyiv said had thus far enabled it so slow Russia's advance.

Hours later, US President Joe Biden signed a new weapons package for Ukraine worth up to $400 million, including four additional high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS).

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Biden for armaments he said were priority needs. "It is what helps us press on the enemy," he said on Twitter.

Commenting on the supply of weapons, the Russian embassy in Washington said the United States wanted to "prolong the conflict at all costs" and compensate for Ukrainian military losses.

Updated: July 09, 2022, 1:10 PM